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School Standards: Bouncing back: from failing list to the `magnificent seven'

A "MAGNIFICENT seven" schools were hailed yesterday as the most improved in England after moving from Ofsted's failing list to be named among the country's most outstanding.

One - Stratford School in east London - had special reason to celebrate, as the official recognition of its "outstanding" status draws a line under its history as one of the country's most troubled and controversial comprehensives.

It was one of the first to opt out of local authority control after being earmarked for closure in 1991. The school was then racked by a row between its then head teacher, Anne Snelling, and a group of governors who tried to oust her. Mrs Snelling survived and was later created an OBE for services to education.

In 1993 Stratford became the first grant-maintained school judged to be failing by Ofsted, with just 4 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSE passes. It now achieves above-average GCSE results, with 55 per cent of pupils scoring at least five good passes.

Inspectors visited the school in December 2003 and said it "provides a very good education for its pupils, who make excellent progress overall".

Andrew Seager, the head teacher who joined last September, said the report was "testimony to what can achieved by determination, good teaching and working closely with the community". He said: "Ten years ago Stratford was half empty, was called one of the worst schools in the country. We became a foundation school. Now we are bursting at the seams and our pupils are achieving excellent exam results."

The other schools named as outstanding despite having once been judged failing were: Bonsall CofE primary school in Derbyshire; Castle special school in Walsall; Elaine primary school in Rochester, Kent; St Cuthbert's Catholic primary school in Egham, Surrey; St John the Divine CofE primary school in Lambeth, south London; and Tettenhall Wood special school in Wolverhampton.