In 1997 Hamlets’ schools were rated the worst in the country and the following year Ofsted declared the council’s education department, the best-funded in the country, to be failing.
Today, Tower Hamlets is seen as an educational success story: one of the few councils whose secondary maintained schools are all rated good or outstanding by Ofsted; and its exam results continue to improve, bucking the national trend.
Three educational academics, Prof David Woods, Prof Chris Husbands and Dr Chris Brown, have analysed how this turnaround was achieved publishing their report, “Transforming Education for All: the Tower Hamlets Story” a copy of which can be downloaded here.
The report attributes the dramatic improvement in Tower Hamlets schools to seven key factors:
- ambitious leadership at all levels
- very effective school improvement
- high quality teaching and learning
- high levels of funding
- external integrated services
- community development and partnerships
- a resilient approach to external government policies and pressure.
It also cites numerous examples of practice and policy for other local authorities to learn from. These include:
- the council resisted the politically motivated pressure to build new high school academies since it already had high-trust relationships with its maintained schools that now perform very well
- attracting and retaining high quality teachers
- a focus on improving literacy at primary school so standards would therefore later improve at secondary school
- a rigorous focus on results and monitoring progress through data
- investment in education – but money needed to be spent wisely
- more teaching assistants and other staff from the local community were placed in schools to support teachers
- the Authority took decisive action if leadership was found wanting: of 48 schools causing concern or in Ofsted categories, 42 heads were replaced
- schools have also been encouraged to work together and will support neighbouring schools who may be struggling
- business mentoring offers secondary students access to a regular meeting with an adviser from the business world.