Transformation from area of underperformance and failing schools to one with  some of the best urban schools in the world

But Ofsted concerned about outcomes for 19 year olds


Tower Hamlets, which was praised by Ofsted for its achievements in its Annual Report , is described as having some of the best urban schools in the world,  by  a new report that charts the local authority’s transformation.

In 1997 Tower Hamlets schools were rated as the worst in the country.

But  a  new report  ‘Transforming Education for All: the Tower Hamlets Story’, by three educational academics, Prof David Woods, Prof Chris Husbands and Dr Chris Brown, looks at  how education in this deprived  borough has been transformed over the last few years.

The report notes that in 1998 only 26 per cent of students achieved five or more high-grade GCSEs – well below the national average of 43 per cent.

In 2012, this was up to 61.8 per cent of students achieving five GCSE grades A* to C including English and maths, above the national average of 59.4 per cent.

The authors said in a statement: “The Tower Hamlets story demonstrates that deprivation is not destiny and is an inspiring example to other schools, local authorities and the education system as a whole of what can be achieved.”

Mayor Lutfur Rahman welcomed the report, saying the transformation of the borough’s schools was “a wonderful success story”.

He said: “This success has been hard won. It is the result of tremendous work by students, parents, head teachers, school staff, council officers and politicians over the past 15 years.”

Mr Rahman added: “All those who have been involved in education in Tower Hamlets since 1998 should feel enormous pride in an achievement that is being held up as a shining example to communities around the world.”

Di Warne, head of secondary learning and achievement there, said the key to success was working in partnership with other schools and high expectations and support from local politicians.

“One of the biggest things has been our focus on monitoring and tracking the progress of young people and we do that really rigorously,” she said.

“I suppose what I would say to them [regions that are struggling] is to raise your aspirations and make your aspirations for your young people really clear and that poverty is no barrier to success and I think that is what London has proved more than anything.”

However, before we get too carried away, Ofsted in its annual report found that   sound GCSE attainment in some boroughs, including Tower Hamlets, is not being converted to good outcomes at age 19.

The academics developed seven explanatory themes that they believe have driven the change and improvement witnessed within the Borough. These are:

• Ambitious leadership at all levels

• Very effective school improvement

• High quality teaching and learning

• High levels of funding

• External integrated services

• Community development and partnerships

• A resilient approach to external government policies and pressure

They also  identify six major factors which explain the Tower Hamlets experience:

• Shared values and beliefs with robust and resilient purpose and professional will. ‘Yes we can…’

• Highly effective and ambitious leadership at all levels – Local Authority and school leadership.

• Schools rising to the standards challenge – improved teaching and learning, enhanced Continuing Professional Development, rigorous pupil tracking and assessment, a relentless focus on school improvement.

• Partnership working – inward and outward facing, external and integrated services, shared responsibility and accountability.

• Community development – building collaborative capacity and community cohesion.

• A professional learning community – building momentum and engagement through and across school communities, high levels of knowledge, trust and professional relationships.

Three respected educational academics, Prof David Woods, Prof Chris Husbands and Dr Chris Brown, have analysed how this turnaround was achieved in a report published on 11 December, called Transforming Education for All: the Tower Hamlets Story (PDF, 2mb).


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