A headteacher of an inner London school, who has compared his job to that of Clint Eastwood in a classic Western, is hoping his day will be made when 10 of his pupils get their A-level results on Thursday.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, said the pupils had secured provisional places at Cambridge University. For an inner city school in the deprived east London borough – he describes it as a "good comprehensive" – it is a remarkable achievement.
Mossbourne Academy took over from the first failing school ever to be closed – Hackney Downs Boys' School. A walk round the school indicates its ethos. As Sir Michael enters a classroom, 30 pupils snap to attention and immediately stand up. "A lot of these youngsters come from the poorest backgrounds", he said. "We put a lot of effort into liaising with Oxbridge. We visited their colleges. They were falling over themselves to help. "
His recipe for success starts, very simply, with recruiting good teachers. To that end, he is happy to pay over the odds. A teacher can start on £25,000 or £27,000 a year and – within five years – could be earning £40,000 if successful.
Bonuses are paid for performance – which would include attendance records as well as exam results.
As to his Clint Eastwood comments, Sir Michael plays them down.
"I was talking about leadership," he said. "You know you have to stand alone. In difficult and problem schools you've got no one else to rely on. It's a bit like Clint Eastwood facing down the enemy."