School that refused to become academy is most improved

It was probably the kind of place that Alastair Campbell had in mind when he referred to "bog standard comprehensive schools". Yet Perry Beeches school in Birmingham has shaken off all attempts to turn it into an academy, and has now become the most improved school in the history of exam results.

Three years ago, when headteacher Liam Nolan took up his post, just 21 per cent of pupils gained the benchmark five A* to C grade results at GCSE including maths and English. It was placed on the then Education Secretary Ed Balls' hit list of schools which were told to improve or face either closure or being made into an academy.

Now, 74 per cent of its pupils achieve the benchmark – making it the most improved school ever over a three-year period. The school also has a 100 per cent record for pupils gaining five A* to C grade passes.

Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, is considering laying on visits so others schools can learn from Perry Beeches about how to reverse their own fortunes.

"It was really basic things that we did," said Mr Nolan when he was asked how the improvement had been achieved. "For a start, we brought in a strict uniform policy and we brought in a system of respect – no matter what the age group.

"When I walk into a classroom students now stand up as a mark of respect. We now have no permanent exclusions in this academic year as the pupils have learnt from this. Attendance has also gone up from the late 80s to 96 per cent."

The 900-pupil school is used as a training facility for newly qualified teachers, and has recently had to turn away 180 parents seeking a place for their child. A record 50 appeals against the refusal of a school place are being heard.

Attempts to persuade Perry Beeches to accept academy status have been rebuffed. "It is still a maintained school – Alastair Campbell would have called it a bog-standard comprehensive," Mr Nolan said.

Letha Charles, who chairs the school's governing body, added: "We are proud to be a normal state school run by our local council. We don't believe we need to be an academy to be a success – you just need a clear vision, good communication with staff, parents and students and strong leadership."

The inspectors' latest report on Perry Beeches read: "The school has made a remarkable journey in the last 18 months and is a rapidly improving school. Everyone is full of pride for what has been achieved in a short space of time. There is a real sense of belonging to team 'PB'."

In 2007, before Mr Nolan's arrived, the school had been reported as failing by Ofsted. The school's brightest pupils now sit GCSE exams – including maths and English – one or two years early. "We do exams when we are ready to take them," said Telisha Hutton, a pupil in her GCSE year. "It is a great chance to take pressure off all the exams taken all at once."

Labour began its 13 years in power repeating the mantra "standards not structures", suggesting that it was the standards in the school rather than the structure it was operating under that determined the quality of learning. That mantra changed with the advent of academies, but Perry Beeches is proof that schools can still succeed if they stick to the former.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence