Transformed school shows minister the way upward

By Ian Dipple Friday 20 December 2013 Updated: 20/12 08:17

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Buy photos » Karen Lumley MP, prefect Alex Fryer, Education minister David Laws, head girl Meg Griessel and headteacher Guy Shears. Picture by Marcus Mingins 5013025MMR.

A BOROUGH school has been hailed by a government minister as proof deprivation should not be used as an excuse for poor standards.

Schools minister David Laws visited RSA Arrow Vale last Thursday (December 12) to see for himself the progress made at the Green Sward Lane school.

Over three years ago an executive headteacher had to be called in to turn around the school, which was running a £1.2million budget deficit, its reputation had suffered and results were poor with just 33 per cent of pupils getting five A* to C grade GCSEs, seen as the desired standard.

Since then it has transformed its fortunes, with 59 per cent of students reaching the A* to C standard in 2012 and conversion to academy status, including a tie in with the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, providing pupils with new opportunities to learn and improve.

Arrow Vale wasn’t alone as for years Redditch lagged behind the rest of Worcestershire in terms of attainment with the high levels of deprivation within the town often blamed.

But Mr Laws told the Standard with strong leadership and desire there was no reason schools could not deliver more for their students.

“There are too many communities and schools in the past, and some still around today, where the aspiration hasn’t been high enough and people often think because schools serve a disadvantaged catchment that is an excuse or justification for having low levels of performance,” he said.

“This is a brilliant example of a school that just a few years ago was producing quite unimpressive results and yet with the right leadership and the right teaching has totally transformed the outcomes for young people.”

But Mr Laws also said it was also important to reform the way the success of schools was measured so no student was overlooked.

“Under the last Labour government we had these five good GCSEs at a C grade or better measure which you could see some of the rationale for having but which drove schools to focus very much on students on that D/C borderline, so there wasn’t that same incentive to get that B grade student up to an A or A* and an incentive to write off a lot of students that were performing at a lower level and were never going to get to a C.”

As part of the visit Mr Laws was presented with a painting by Rianha Hanley which he described as ‘beautiful’ and promised to hang it in his office at the Department of Education.

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