Friday, November 24, 2006

Isn’t it time to hand over ALL Lewisham State schools to Haberdashers?
Last weekend saw The Sunday Times publish its new ranking of Britain’s best schools. Lewisham, which has sixty-nine primary and fourteen secondary State schools, has just two of them on this exclusive list. The other three are independents. And it is a mixed bag of results. While there are some encouraging signs of improvement, two Lewisham schools have dropped steeply. Another two have disappeared, although one is new. But is there hope of a brighter future, courtesy of Haberdashers?

The Times decides the overall ranking by looking at the academic performance of schools in Britain. It takes note of the overall SAT score from Key Stage 2 results of primary, junior and preparatory schools, and the GCSE and A level pass rate of secondary schools. Here’s the list of interest to Lewisham:

National 2006 rank (2005 rank)
Top preparatory schools
042 (054) Sydenham High School Junior School GDST
Top independent secondary schools
193 (121) Sydenham High School GDST
318 (284) St. Dunstan’s College
Top 500 secondary schools
248 (147) Sydenham High School
444 (319) St. Dunstan’s College
Top 500 State primary schools
391 (----) John Ball Primary
Top 500 State secondary schools
238 (273) Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College

Once again, the superiority of Lewisham’s independent schools over its State counterparts is clear to see. But they shouldn’t be passing the bubbly just yet: While Sydenham High School’s Junior School made it into the top fifty British preparatory schools this year, its secondary elders fell by a total of 173 places in the lists of top independent secondary schools and top 500 secondary schools. Fellow Lewisham independent secondary school, St. Dunstan’s College dropped a combined 159 places across these two lists. Worse still, St. Dunstan’s Junior School has vanished altogether (it was ranked 82 last year). Lewisham’s State schools had John Ball Primary making the top 500 State primary schools list for the first time at 391. Unfortunately, Prendergast School has disappeared from the list (it was at 209 in 2005). On the bright side, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College jumped 35 places to 238 from 273 on the top 500 State secondary schools list. But while any improvement should be welcome, contrast the performance of Haberdashers’ stable mates in the independent sector:

National 2006 rank (2005 rank)
Top preparatory schools
001 (----) The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' Preparatory School in Elstree
Top independent secondary schools
011 (004) Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls in Elstree
024 (018) The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Elstree
130 (083) Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls
Top 500 secondary schools
011 (004) Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls
026 (019) The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School
160 (103) Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls

Haberdashers’ can claim to have the best preparatory school in Britain and also has two secondary schools in the top thirty. Even its least performing ranked independent – Monmouth - is far higher than Lewisham’s top State secondary school, its cousin: Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College. What is happening here? Two Haberdashers schools: One independent, one State yet a huge gulf between them. Is it fair to compare? Is it too early to criticize? The two Haberdashers Academies in Lewisham have only been around for a short while in their current federal form, and yet they can claim great results in their own right: Hatcham had an A level pass rate of 99% with 5 students gaining Oxbridge places and 94% getting GCSE 5+ A* - C results. Meanwhile their Knights Academy (which did not feature in the Sunday Times list at all) scored passes at GCSE of 29% at 5+ A* - C which was an improvement of over 200%.

It seems to me that despite the challenge of reconciling the best practice of independent schools versus the aim to be as comprehensive as possible to the community, Haberdashers are making good headway. Last year, a lottery had to be proposed to ensure an impartial selection of new pupils since there were more than 2,500 children chasing 208 places at Hatcham. Then there was controversy earlier this year over the lateness of promised funds - £2million – for each of the Academies by the Haberdashers livery company. But now the results are in, and certainly Hatcham, a music-oriented institution (Knights is sports-driven), is doing well: Its ranking on the Times list is its best in the past three years. Plans are currently afoot to incorporate Monson Primary School into Hatcham. But are you thinking what I’m thinking? Wouldn’t it be great to see such a successful entity be given ALL the State schools of Lewisham to run?


Anonymous said...

i think haberdashers does so well because they choose who they take in my son came from the wrong postcode despite doing well in the entrance test. i know people that have rented one bedroom flats just to get in, but we cant all do that. my son has had everything going against him. he has done well at primary school despite a number of upheavals but is forced to go to a school out of the borough that seems to teach very little.i dont know what the future holds for children in lewisham.

Jens Winton said...

I too fret because I have a nine year old daughter who needs to go to her next school in a couple of years time. I mentioned the lottery Hatchams devised, which was endorsed by the Government. This crude but perhaps effective method simply tossed everyone into a pot and simply drew at random its intake.

I would prefer all us parents to get education vouchers to spend on any school we choose: We pay enough tax as it is. Until that happens, I think we need to agitate for more successful work practices and Haberdashers is doing something well - even for the old Malory school. We'd be silly to ignore the lessons there...

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