Quality can deal with city issues

8th September 2006 at 01:00
Andy Kilpatrick is not surprised that rural schools outperform those in urban areas at GCSE.

"It is self-evident schools in rural areas will do better," said the head of Northumberland Park community school in Tottenham, north London. "You just have to look at the challenges many schools in urban areas have to face."

Northumberland Park is a case in point. Situated in the borough of Haringey, an area with significant social and economic problems, it has to deal with issues which affect few rural schools.

Mr Kilpatrick previously worked at a school in Basingstoke. "It was a very affluent area," he said. "Less than 1 per cent of students' families were unwaged.

"At Northumberland Park, 30 per cent of families with pupils at the school are unwaged. There are a mountain of challenges here that you won't find in rural schools.

"We work in a particularly economically disadvantaged area - 63 per cent of our students are on free school meals. This impinges on their home environment; they are likely to have fewer books and com-puter equipment.

"Between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of our students live in a non-English speaking environment when they are not at school, which impacts on their ability to learn. Close to 40 per cent also have special needs."

Despite these problems, this year 66 per cent of pupils at Northumberland Park got five or more A* to C grade GCSEs - up from 19 per cent three years ago. Mr Kilpatrick attributed this to the hard work of his staff.

"These challenges are not insurmountable but teachers know they have to work very hard and be very committed.

"I've found the quality of the best teachers at this school to be above anything I have worked with before," he said.

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