Notorious after featuring in a BBC documentary, an Islington school is now heading for the most-improved list. Warwick Mansell reports
A SECONDARY which earned notoriety last year when a BBC documentary charted its chaotic relaunch under a "superhead" is likely to be one of the most improved in the country when national GCSE league tables are published later this year.
Islington Arts and Media school has seen the proportion of its pupils achieving five or more top grades shoot up from six to 27 per cent - its best results for years.
The former George Orwell school hit the headlines last autumn when BBC2's Head on the Block programme followed its re-opening under the Government's controversial Fresh Start scheme, which sees schools closed and re-opened with new names, management teams and staff.
Pupils were filmed being sent home after returning from the summer holidays to find building work still going on, while headteacher Torsten Friedag was shown struggling to maintain discipline. Mr Friedag resigned six months after the school's relaunch.
The school, which is still in special measures, has received pound;9 million from the Government and Islington council under the revamp. Richard Rieser, chairman of governors, said: "The governors have always had faith in the school. It's like any school that's in difficulties. It just needs strong management and willingness from teachers to get stuck in. That's what's happened."
He added: "I don't think you need Fresh Start to turn a school round." The school was not the only fast-improving Fresh Start comprehensive this summer. Kingswood high, in Hull, saw the proportion of pupils gaining five top GCSE grades jump from 2.7 to 18 per cent.
However, Fresh Start has largely been superseded in ministers' affections by the City Academies scheme, in which businesses are encouraged to sponsor new schools.