6:00am Friday 17th May 2013
By Jamie Henderson
Three years ago Putney's Elliot School, now the ARK Academy, was placed in special measures but now it is bordering on "outstanding" thanks to its latest Ofsted report.
In 2009 just 43 per cent of students achieved five GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths, which was their lowest mark for many years.
The following year, the school managed to marginally improve to 48 per cent but this prompted government intervention and the dreaded special measures.
Affected schools must have regular inspections to monitor improvement, senior managers and teaching staff can be dismissed and the school governors replaced.
If poor performance continues the school may even be closed.
Bill Leadbitter, upper school headmaster, said: "We were in a terrible state. Special measures kill your recruitment, it's a vicious circle.
"We lost government funding, from Building Schools for the Future, so had to look at another solution.
"But Mark Phillips came in and completely changed the culture.
"He wanted to create a proper environment for students - because if you don't have that you don't have a school.
"We asked students what they wanted and focused, quite forensically, on what actually happens within a lesson."
Mr Phillips, the head of school, joined in 2010 and began addressing some of the long-standing problems including a damaged public reputation, poor results and crumbling buildings.
In the first year after his arrival the school made huge strides, culminating in exam pass marks of 61 per cent in 2011 and 62 per cent in 2012.
The improvement led to discussions with ARK and the future of the school looks bright.
Mr Leadbitter said: "We decided to join a group of schools which work together for communal improvement so ARK was the obvious choice.
"Students and teachers have worked really hard and rather than phase out students who weren't performing, we kept every kid and improved them."
The school has a new name, eye-catching uniform and plans to update many of the existing buildings
Mr Leadbitter added: "We regularly get people telling us how smart the kids look, the surrounding community has a much more positive view of the school."
With the school fully functioning as a whole, individual excellence is starting to emerge with many students achieved bursaries, scholarship and placements at respected colleges and companies.
To take a tour of the school or to learn more call 020 8788 3421.
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