My eldest is starting secondary school school next year and we’ve been doing the school open day circuit.
Sunday was the Thomas Telford School, one of the best independent schools in the country. We won’t find out until March if he’s been selected to go there. Last night was the Lord Silkin School, the closest one to home and tonight was the Abraham Darby Academy. Monday it’ll be the Madeley Academy.
The Thomas Telford, as you would expect, had amazing facilities and the Sixth Formers that showed us round were really confident and genuinely seemed to love the place. The Ab Dab was great too – it’s got good facilities too and it’s a Haberdasher school so they’re really into good, traditional values.
About three quarters of an hour into the principal’s “20 minute” speech tonight my mind started wandering a bit and it occured to me that the Academy approach to failing schools is actually one half of a good idea. The only thing that’s missing from it is federation with a selective school.
The Abraham Darby is an academy which is partly funded by the local authority but mainly by the Haberdashers and is almost entirely free to run itself as it wishes. It’s federated with the Adams Grammar School, a fee charging selective school which is also a Haberdasher school. What it means is that the schools are run seperately but along the same lines, sharing management and facilities. For the Adams Grammar and the Abraham Darby, it means that the Abraham Darby sends their internationally-renowned music teachers to the Adams Grammar to train their teaching staff in music whilst the Adams Grammar send their languages teachers to the Abraham Darby to improve their language teaching.
The school we’re going to see on Monday is federated with the one we saw on Sunday. They went from being threatened with closure to the best performing non-selective school in the borough since being turned into an Academy and federated with the Thomas Telford.
I don’t know if these are exceptions to the rule but it’s clearly working here. If this success can be replicated throughout England then let’s start encouraging all schools to adopt the same approach!
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