'Polish students are not to blame for West Croydon school's performance'
A POLISH student has defended her peers from any suggestion they are partly to blame for her former school's poor performance.
Joanna Pawluk decided to speak out after reading her former head teacher Ejiro Ughwujabo's comments about struggling St Mary's Catholic High, in West Croydon.
Mr Ughwujabo told the Advertiser earlier this month the school's "fully comprehensive" intake was not being used as an excuse but could not be ignored.
He said: "I can take you round and show you all the Afghani [sic] and Polish pupils who come here and speak no English at all. It can be difficult, but I rarely exclude.
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"Even though they don't get the GCSE grades, at least they achieve something.
"I'm not making excuses but it would be wrong to throw out these factors."
Just 40 per cent of St Mary's students left last summer with five or more good GCSE grades, results described as "unacceptable" by the council's education chief, Tim Pollard.
But Miss Pawluk says poor teaching and a lack discipline – not the number of overseas students – is the real cause of the decline.
The 17-year-old, who left the school after her GCSEs last year, said: "I saw his comments and I thought, I must sort this out, because it was so unfair to blame it on the Polish students.
"It is [more] because of disorganisation from the teachers themselves and their inability to teach their students properly.
"Students are demotivated by what is happening around them."
Miss Pawluk started at St Mary's in Year 7 when her family moved to England from Poland. She spoke no English, and says the teaching was inconsistent.
She added: "There is support and we are very grateful for that, but still after one year they expect you to know it.
"They have a small department for English language learners and I thought that was brilliant for the first year when I came there, but the teachers outside of the department, they do not really care and expect you to know it."
Miss Pawluk left with ten GCSEs at grades A* to C – success she puts down to her own hard work more than help from her teachers – and is doing her A levels at Riddlesdown Collegiate in Purley.
Some 61 per cent of students at St Mary's do not speak English as their first language, and Miss Pawluk added that inadequate measures to help them means "you get a lot of discrimination and there is not enough integration".
Mr Ughwujabo could not immediately be reached for comment, but previously told the Advertiser the school had started evening and weekend classes, to improve results.