Last week, I got an email from Glen Denham, the Head of the Oasis Academy Shirley Park, attaching a copy of the school’s Ofsted inspection.
It’s been rated outstanding on every measure - achievement of pupils; quality of teaching; behaviour and safety of pupils; and leadership and management. As Glen says, “This is a testament to a very dedicated staff, students, parents and Governors”. It’s also due to his inspirational leadership.
You can read the full report here but here are a few quotes:
“Students’ achievements are outstanding. Regardless of their starting points, all groups make exceptional progress to exceed the national average greatly by the end of Year 11”.
“Teaching is outstanding...staff are highly committed to ensuring that their students fulfil their potential. They have very high expectations of the students and successfully challenge, nurture and support them at every stage in their studies”.
“Behaviour is outstanding. Students take immense pride in the academy and everything it offers. The extensive site is clean and tidy and students enjoy and respect their social areas. Movement around the sight is invariably calm and orderly and excellent classroom behaviour helps to foster outstanding learning”.
“Outstanding leadership and governance, especially from the inspirational principal, ensure that the academy makes rapid progress and meets its challenging targets. At every level, leaders show a remarkable level of commitment to ensuring that students flourish and that the quality of teaching and learning continues to improve”.
Oasis Shirley Park replaced Ashburton just over four years ago. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to believe that anyone opposed this decision. But at the time, it was hugely controversial. It was opposed by the teaching unions; by Andrew Pelling, my predecessor as the Member of Parliament for Croydon Central; by Croydon Labour Party (including my Labour opponent at the last Election who bizarrely called Ashburton a "good community school" despite the fact that it’s results were shocking and hardly any local parents sent their children there); and by some parents, who - despite the fact that their child’s school clearly needed drastic improvement - worried that change might make things worse before they got better.
The transformation since then has been little short of remarkable. In August 2009, just 26% of Ashburton students got 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and maths; four years later that figure has more than doubled to 64%. And how has it been achieved? There have been a host of changes, but at their heart has been a passion to help young people achieve their potential coupled with a belief that where you start in life needn’t determine how well you do at school. To quote Glen again, “We know that background, place of birth or post code need never be an obstacle in fulfilling your dreams and aspirations. We accept no excuses and we have extremely high expectations”.
There are lots of people who have lost faith in politics. They think politicians are all the same or, even worse, just in it for themselves. Stories like this show they’re wrong - at least some of the time. A group of us took a decision – in the face of considerable opposition – to close a school that was letting down our young people and replace it with a new school that refused to accept that because they were from poor backgrounds they were destined to fail. And because of the decision we took and the amazing work of Glen and his staff and, most importantly of all, the way the pupils responded to the higher expectations of them, their life chances have been transformed. Politics helped to do that. And it is this ability to change people’s lives for the better that brought me into politics in the first place and sustains me today