A government minister was full of praise for pupils’ maths and reading skills as he visited a primary school in Walthamstow.
Schools minister Nick Gibb spent a morning at Chapel End Junior Academy in Roberts Road, to witness its progress from being a school in special measures three years ago to being rated ‘good’ at its most recent Ofsted inspection.
After quizzing some nine and ten-year-olds on their times tables, Nick told the Echo: “When I challenged them they knew the answers, they did very well.
“I also asked them what books they were reading and it was clear that reading for pleasure was something they all do at home.”
Nick was using the visit to promote the government’s academies programme, which has seen a huge increase in the number of state schools being run independently from their local authorities. In Waltham Forest, 22 schools are now run outside of council control, nearly one in three of the total.
Chapel End was taken over by REAch2 Academy Trust in April 2013 and has since improved its standards significantly, according to the education watchdog Ofsted.
“Chapel End’s success is an example of why academies are needed,” said Nick. “REAch2 is an award-winning trust and is taking its approach to more schools.”
Another Walthamstow academy, Woodside Primary Academy in Wood Street, was taken over by REAch2 in December 2012. But it was given a notice to improve by Ofsted in 2014 after inspectors found that the quality of teaching was “hindering children’s progress”.
Nick said he wasn’t aware of Woodside’s situation but would consider visiting the school as well. He added: “It is about leadership from the headteacher, giving priority to maths and reading and getting the basics right.
“I don’t know about the other school [Woodside] but if you look at academies as a whole they are improving at twice the rate of schools which haven’t converted.
“If a school is converted to an academy and it doesn’t improve, we take swift action.”
Nick said the government’s eight regional school commissioners were better able to take this action than local authorities such as Waltham Forest Council.
“They know their schools,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it centralised.”
Steve Lancashire, the chief executive of REAch2, later commented on the minister’s visit to Chapel End. He said: “It was a real honour to have the minister for schools visit Chapel End and to see just how much progress [headteacher] James Kenyon and his team have made of the past two years.
“Everyone at REAch2 is very proud of the energy and commitment the staff have shown to ensure that every child has exceptional learning opportunities for learning at Chapel End and this visit was a fitting way to celebrate all the hard work from teachers and children alike.”