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12 June 2008
By John Prendergast
THREE SCHOOLS in Southwark have been warned they will be turned into academies unless they hit government targets - despite two of them already being academies.
The schools have been asked to step up to the mark, after they failed to reach a benchmark of having 30 per cent of pupils attain five good GCSEs including English and Maths.
Kingsdale Secondary School, The Academy at Peckham and the Globe Academy (formerly Geoffrey Chaucer Technology College) now must meet the required target within three years or face up to the government threat of closure.
When quizzed about The National Challenge, where the academy programme will be extended to 313 schools across the country, a spokesman for the Department for Schools and Families said: "One option for these schools will be to turn them into academies, but other options are available such as turning the school into a National Challenge Trust."
Responding to a question whether there any real difference between the two, the spokesman stated that while academies work independently with businesses or sponsors, the trust school would work with a successful school, business or university.
The one school, Kingsdale Secondary School, that is not an academy has not taken the government’s challenge well, and feel the eligibility criteria does not account for the work they have already undertaken.
Steve Morrison, head teacher at Kingsdale Foundation School, said: "This approach conflicts with that of Ofsted which takes into account the fact that approximately 50 per cent of the pupils attending the school speak English as an additional language and the fact that the school has the highest value added score in Southwark (and one of the highest in the country).
"The most recent Ofsted inspection in November 2006, for instance, rated the quality of leadership and management at the school as "outstanding" and concluded that "Kingsdale is a good and rapidly improving specialist performing arts college with a number of outstanding features" where "no group of pupils underachieve". A fairer system of assessment is therefore required."
A spokeswoman for the Harris Academy in Peckham, which opened in September 2003, felt although they are still below the benchmark set in the National challenge they feel the work they have already undertaken has done much to ensure they will pass the target. She said: "When we first became an academy just ten per cent of students achieved five A* to C grades, including English and maths. Since then, we have more than doubled this figure to 24%. For the first time, we are beginning to send our Sixth Formers to university. And we have been praised by Ofsted for our rapid improvement. Becoming an outstanding school is a marathon not a sprint, but our students and staff work hard and we are well on the way to meeting and exceeding the government's targets."
Ark Schools, who will be running the Globe Academy from September, also stated that they intend to exceed the target. A spokeswoman said: "Ark would not have taken on this school if they did not have ambitious plans for their pupils, and they fully intend to realise them. Raising standards is about a combination of all of these things, good leadership, committed teachers, well resourced imaginative classes, care and attention to the needs of every child so that individual needs are picked up and acted on quickly. That is what Globe Academy aims to provide."
In total 638 schools must meet the target, and the budget to help schools was doubled to £400 million in order aid authorities meet targets.
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