Islington’s excellent state maintained schools – a continuing story of success.

Emma Kay's picture
In 2012 I posted about Highbury Grove School, at which my daughter was a student in year 8. Since then increasing numbers of parents have been putting HG first on their school admission forms, recognizing that there is a school on their doorstep which is performing brilliantly for all its students. Now in year 10, these children are flourishing and the parents who went against the local tide are very proud. Our children are happy, fulfilled, busy, challenged, hard working and successful young adults who love their school. And to cap it all, they are doing extremely well academically. Following behind them are cohorts of children who are having a similar uplifting experience.

The school has a new head, Tom Sherrington, who has come from an outstanding school in Kent, King Edwards Grammar School. Tom is a local resident. It is clear that his innovative, ambitious and consultative approach will take the school to the next level. TS's plans include developing a sixth form so good that it is a reason for choosing HG in year 7.

The parents who chose HG back in 2011 and in successive years have continued to advocate for the school in the local community, helping to change opinions, assuage doubts and fears and challenge preconceptions. HG is now one of the most oversubscribed schools in Islington because it is achieving great things for all its students. In 2013 the percentage of 5 or more A*-C grade GCSES including English and maths placed the school in the top 100 non-selective state funded schools in England, and in the top 108 for pupil premium students. This is a school that is succeeding with all students regardless of level of attainment on entry - the kind of school we all wanted for our children.

Parents now find themselves part of a much bigger project – to show the government that LA-run local schools are working and in Islington the evidence is that they are working brilliantly. Islington is a borough which has already achieved all the things that the government says it wants for schools – choice, excellence and innovation - in its existing schools.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Melissa Benn's picture
Wed, 08/10/2014 - 07:57

I remember your original post Emma and was wondering only yesterday - yes, seriously! - how Highbury Grove - school, students, parents were getting on. Heartening to hear, in particular, of an Islington school that is flourishing in this way. 'Islington' was, for many years, the by word for supposed local authority failure, in the way that Hackney was things have changed, and perhaps Islington can do it within a strong l.a. context.

I am sure Tom Sherrington will take HG onto the next stage; he has a well thought out ambitions for the modern comprehensive. Please keep us in touch with HG over next months and years.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 08/10/2014 - 09:33

Thanks for the update. Islington secondary schools seem to have resisted this Govt's academies programme. There are only two secondary academies in Islington and these are sponsored academies opened in 2007 (St Mary Magdalene Academy) and 2008 (City of London). The remaining eight state mainstream secondary schools are non-academies.

Seven state mainstream secondary schools in Islington are judged Good (including the two sponsored academies) and the remaining three are Outstanding. The latter includes one Voluntary Aided (St Aloysius RC) and two community schools, Highbury Grove and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. These two would be described by the DfE in its propaganda as 'council' schools (you can almost hear the sneer).

So it's heartening to hear of two 'council' schools which are successful. Unfortunately, it's unlikely they will appear in DfE videos - the teachers who appear in these seem to be predominantly from academies or free schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 08/10/2014 - 10:07

Islington's primary schools also appear to have resisted academy conversion. There are 45 state primary schools in Islington: one free school, only two academy converters, just one sponsored academy (the all-through St Mary Magdalene), 15 VA schools and 26 community schools (aka 'council' schools). 38 of the 45 state primaries in Islington are Good or better (the free school hasn't been inspected yet).

This rather blows a hole in the assertion that academy status is the only route to success.

David Barry's picture
Wed, 08/10/2014 - 16:11


You are quite right; there is at present, no interest in the vast majority of Islington's primary schools in becoming academies. My impression would be that most primary governors in Islington dont see the point. They are not aware of wanting to do anything that their current status as community schools stops them from doing. Nor do they experience themselves as being "run" by Islington. In fact over the recent past in part as a response to the political changes regarding education, and very substantial government cuts to the council's budget Islington has developed what it calls the "Islington Community of Schools" where an emphasis is placed on encouraging schools to collaborate, and the LA acts as an enabler of this rather than a "top down" administration arguing that even if they wished to do they no longer have the resources to do other.....

Brian's picture
Mon, 13/10/2014 - 11:40

David ' …. no interest in the vast majority of Islington’s primary schools in becoming academies. My impression would be that most primary governors in Islington dont see the point.'

Maybe they should look at the info for parents distributed by the governors of five schools local to me, about to become academies as part of a trust. Two key points are that as academies they will become free to share staff expertise and develop closer collaboration across the four schools.

Quite clearly these are important freedoms for academies which LA schools are denied. No, hang on a minute … I've got that wrong I think. Still, it persuaded the parents.

David Barry's picture
Mon, 13/10/2014 - 16:15

Swiftian irony not yet dead I see...

Of course if schools want to collaborate REALLY closely together, for example sharing the same Head they can form a federation. Either "hard' or "soft". Academy status not needed for that either.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 14/10/2014 - 06:59

David and Brian - and it isn't even necessary to form a federation. The school I worked regularly met with nearby LA secondary schools including the grammar (most of us were nominally comprehensive) and a special school to discuss work-related education with representatives from the careers service. The meetings were brokered by the LA as part of the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI). That was over 25 years ago. The LA also arranged TVEI Related In-Service Training (Trist). It became a rather hackneyed joke when teachers went off on a trist (groan).

Other examples of shared practice were between local schools delivering double-option GCSE Business and Information Studies, LA inset, and informal ad-hoc meetings like the one I had with a local independent school about work experience/running a careers library.

Again, these were a quarter-of-a-century ago.

Martin Richardson's picture
Tue, 14/10/2014 - 22:57

Hi Emma

My son is at a different Islington secondary school. Very happy with it overall, manages to balance very good exam results with wide ranging education.

On my calculations (KS2 average intake score to 'best 8 capped' points in KS4) Islington state schools perform highest of all LAs. Students in Islington secondary schools score 55 points higher in GCSEs than the average in England when compared with schools of a simlar intake. Averaged out, each student in Islington gets a little more than a grade higher in each of 8 GCSE subjects compared with an 'average' student in England entering Year 7 with a similar KS2 score.

On collaboration, at Year 12 my son will most likely be part of the same, state funded, very successful, non-Academy, 6th Form consortium as those students at HG. So no, no need to be part of an Academy chain to collaborate.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.