Sunday, March 14, 2010

Perry Beeches School: education is inspiration

I've got a bit behind here, so bear with me whilst I catch up...

Our second visit on Friday morning was undoubtedly an inspiring one.

Not long ago, Perry Beeches School was a failing institution, with low academic achievement, low aspirations amongst its pupils, high levels of substitute teachers, in short, not somewhere you would send your children if you had a choice. Now, where once only 21% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, 64% are. Aspirations amongst the pupils are high, with some of the students aiming to be lawyers, forensic scientists, some hoping to run their own business.

The headmaster, Liam Nolan, is a bundle of energy, supported by a team who show incredible enthusiasm for what they are doing. And what they are doing is quite startling. Without additional money, without the 'support' of government programmes, they have looked at what a school does, and what it is for, and returned to the basics of producing young people equipped to play a full part in society, the very essence of building a community where equality of opportunity is more than an easy buzz phrase.

For example, resources have been found to provide mentoring programmes for those students who, in the past, would have been marginal in terms of educational achievement. But those mentors aren't teachers, they're people with backgrounds in industry, people with a hinterland, who can relate education to the outside world. The results speak volumes, as hundreds of students emerge with better qualifications and better life chances.

We finished with a sneak preview of the school production of 'An American Tale', and I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the performers. As a spearcarrier rather than a star myself, my attention was on the chorus, and it really looked as though they were enjoying themselves. The two principals gave it everything, and if there is anyone who fancies a night out in the Birmingham suburbs next week, you could do far worse than support them.

It is fair to say that I was impressed. A school which produces polite, engaged and confident students is a benchmark that all parents should aspire towards. One that does so much to develop those students is something that a whole community can rally round. In short, Perry Beeches School demonstrates what can be done and what should be done, and I wish them all the very best wishes for the future.

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