I am against the break up of the school fraternity into trusts, foundations and academies – for very good reason of believing that the only way to bring real success to all children is for the local community school to be excellent. But we are where we are – and the reality of Greig City Academy in my constituency is that it is forging ahead to create a community school and tackling head on the challenge of creating a really good community school with what even the headmaster termed challenging children.
Mr Paul Sutton (the Head) is quite something, and he zooms around the corridors of the school in his wheelchair, having been paralysed only two years ago in a rugby accident. His speedy return and his extraordinary determination to deliver exciting, aspirational and practical futures is quite something to behold. Results are improving from the bad years of the previous school which transmuted into the Greig Academy.
The reason I believe lies in the staff. In the end, it is always the quality and determination of the human beings driving this forward that delivers results – and here from head (literally) to toe there is absolute commitment.
However, academies can pay their staff £5,000 more than other inner London state schools – so of course application is high and the motivation is high. I had about an hour with the Head and then walked around the school going into a few of the classrooms as the children were being taught.
The atmosphere was serious and studious and the teaching was really interesting. In one classroom the teacher was asking the kids a question. The boy answering used the word ‘like’ in his answer almost every two words:
Well Miss, like, it was, like, when you go like, to you know, like to a …
The teacher pulled him up on it. And I thought that was fantastic, because it is a detail – but its a detail that belies a way of thinking behind what is said. And it was done nicely and well.
So – the Head’s aspiration is for the children from the area to come to the school as it is the local school. It is the case, at present, that most of the parents from up the hill prefer to try and get their kids in elsewhere. It will take time – but the school is improving and I have no doubt that the children who go to Greig Academy are being educated – and I mean educated in the best sense of the word.