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A victory for team spirit

AS headteacher Peter Price spoke about his school's achievement in more than doubling its national test results over the past four years, police sirens wailed in the background.

A woman had been stabbed in a domestic row a few yards from the school entrance and officers were hurriedly sealing off the road.

St Christopher's RC junior is in the heart of a deprived 40s and 50s overspill housing estate in Speke, Liverpool, one of the most deprived wards in the country. Unemployment, violence and drugs are all too common and 60 per cent of pupils are on free school meals.

Yet despite these potential barriers to achievement, the school's key stage 2 test results have jumped from 92 (an aggregate of the percentages of pupils gaining level 4 in English, maths and science) to 206 between 1997 and 2001. Attendance levels meet the national average and the cross-country running team has won the national championships for four out of the past five years.

Mr Price said: "It sounds like a management cliche, but a strong team spirit really is the driving force behind our progress.

"There are major social and economic problems here, but teachers, secretaries and canteen staff all play an important role in creating a happy environment where most children want to do well.

"We also have 10 mums who are employed by the school as teaching assistants which makes an enormous difference in the classroom. Reading and writing are our bread and butter and the government literacy and numeracy strategies came at a good time for us.

"We are also in an education action zone, which means the school has benefited from extra government funding, as well as support from the surrounding business community and the education authority.

"All these things are steering us in the right direction but there is still some way to go."

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