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Head turns failing school around to achieve top status

PUBLISHED: 12:32 10 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:36 07 September 2010

Sanchez Manning A HEADTEACHER has revealed how she took a failing primary school in Marylebone to the top of the league tables in just over a decade. Last week, Hampden Gurney on Nutford Place was ranked among the leading 10 state primary schools in Londo

Sanchez Manning

A HEADTEACHER has revealed how she took a failing primary school in Marylebone to the top of the league tables in just over a decade.

Last week, Hampden Gurney on Nutford Place was ranked among the leading 10 state primary schools in London for the seventh year running.

The school, which dates back to 1863, took its place in the upper echelons of the government league tables by achieving 100 per cent SATs pass rates in English, maths and science.

According to headteacher Evelyn Chua when she took command of the Church of England school 11 years ago it was "scraping the barrel".

She said that at that time many parents refused to even entertain the idea of sending their children there but now the school is so oversubscribed that parents are buying luxury flats in the catchment area just to get their children in.

Ms Chua said the school's astounding turnaround is down to a strong shared belief that every child has the ability to learn and achieve.

She said: "We inspired the children because we accept that every child has got ability somewhere and can achieve."

The other secret of the school's success is their extensive mentoring programme, Ms Chua said.

A team of support assistants work with the Year 5 and 6 children in the lead up to their exams, while the infants are given extra help through a buddy system which matches them up with older pupils.

"It's someone away from class to whom the children can express themselves," said Ms Chua.

"We have 50 per cent of the top year group applying for scholarships and bursaries, so because of the amount of pressure they're put under they need mentoring."

All teaching staff are also trained in yoga breathing techniques, which they do with the students to relieve the exam stress.

Ms Chua added: "It's not one thing we do it's an accumulation of everything. It's all about team work.

"We've got very committed teaching staff who know how to get the best out of the children."

The school's facilities improved dramatically after a multi-million pound makeover completed seven years ago.

As part of the redevelopment huge 'play decks' were installed next to the classrooms on each floor of the three-storey building, along with a public library now filled with more than 1,200 books.

Head girl Holly Heywood, 10, who lives in Paddington, admitted that there was pressure to pass exams, but said the teachers made the process much less stressful.

"It's the way the teachers give the work to you and act," she said. "They make a really nice atmosphere once we start the tests."

While her classmate Zachary Fry, from Marylebone, said: "The teaching is very good. "They try to make their lessons as fun as possible.


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