'We stick to the old-fashioned way of teaching the whole child'

The achievers
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A school that teaches its pupils maths through dance and geography through drama has scooped the top spot for improvement in this year's league tables.

A school that teaches its pupils maths through dance and geography through drama has scooped the top spot for improvement in this year's league tables.

St Marylebone Church of England School in Westminster, central London, takes league tables "with a pinch of salt" and argues that the arts are just as important as exam results. Dance, drama and music, it says, lead to better results because they increase pupils' self-confidence.

The specialist arts college, which has 750 girls, has more than doubled the proportion of pupils achieving five good grades at GCSE from 39 per cent three years ago to 89 per cent this year. Schools have to improve for three consecutive years to qualify for the Government's list of improving schools.

While ministers and Chris Woodhead, who has resigned as chief inspector of schools, have been promoting traditional teaching techniques and testing, St Marylebone has raised standards by using "progressive" methods fashionable 20 years ago. Pupils go to the gym to learn about symmetry in dance and maths. They learn geography in the drama studio by making a film of a news bulletin about an earthquake.

John Hunter, the deputy head, said: "The trouble with league tables is that they make people lose sight of why schools are here. What is important is whether girls are educated when they leave. We stick to the old-fashioned philosophy of teaching the whole child.

"Our girls know how to stand up in front of an audience. That is going to put them in a stronger position than a certificate saying they have As, Bs and Cs. League tables are an abomination. They are misleading because they concentrate on the top grades at GCSE."

The school takes on a comparatively high number of newly qualified teachers, trains them and promotes the good ones quickly. It sets individual targets for all pupils and offers them mentors.

Since 1997, its GCSE results have improved every year. Last year 77 per cent achieved five good grades. About half the pupils at the school have English as a second language and more than one-quarter are eligible for free school meals, compared with a national average of 17 per cent. Pupils compete fiercely to get in. All are interviewed and are chosen first for their faith and second according to the distance of their homes from the school.

Mr Hunter said it was quite possible that the results might go down next year. If they did, the school would be relaxed about it.

Comments