'No chance' St Mary's Catholic High in West Croydon will become an academy, says head
A HEAD teacher whose school's GCSE results were described as "unacceptable" has said there is "no chance" it will become an academy.
St Mary's Catholic High in West Croydon was one per cent away from falling below the minimum expected proportion of students leaving school with five or more A* to C grades including English and maths.
Tim Pollard, council cabinet member for children, young people and learners, described the results as "unacceptable" and called for a "change in culture" at the school.
But this week head teacher Ejiro Ughwujabo defended his record and said St Mary's would not be forced to become an academy.
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He said: "I agree that the results were disappointing but I wouldn't say they were unacceptable.
"Tim Pollard is a politician and there's a Government agenda for schools to become academies, therefore he's going to say that.
"I have the support of the diocese, which is why I think he is worried.
"We're a voluntary-aided school and they don't have as much authority when it comes to making us an academy.
"The diocese has said schools that want to become academies can do so but if we are talking in terms of it being imposed I don't see there is any chance.
"When the results come next year, they will see the folly of these kind of comments."
St Mary's finished second bottom of the school league tables published last month, with only 40 per cent of pupils leaving last summer with at least five good GCSEs, equalling the Government's new minimum target.
The Department for Education has said any school which falls below that target would become an academy sponsored by organisations such as the Harris Federation or Oasis Community Learning Trust.
Westwood Girls' College for Language and Arts posted 35 per cent and is in the process of being taken over by Harris.
Differences between year groups – or cohorts – can sometimes explain variations in exam results, though Cllr Pollard said St Mary's 11 per cent drop since 2011 was more than just an anomaly.
Mr Ughwujabo, however, said: "It was about the cohort, there's no doubt about that. That year group was not a very good group.
"I have analysed the results. They were not good. But I can tell you the teachers here work very hard, and so did the majority of those students."
English results were below expectations, Mr Ughwujabo explained, due to the impact of last year's GCSE exams fiasco, where grade boundaries were changed leading students to be given a D when predicted a C.
Mr Ughwujabo, who plans to retire in a year-and-a-half, has begun evening booster classes and extra lessons at weekends to improve results and says that mock exams show the tactics are working.
He said: "I've met with staff and made it clear to them that results cannot be as they were last year.
"The school is not going to be under threat because the results come August will be significantly different."
When analysing the impact of academies on secondary education in Croydon, Tim Pollard told the Advertiser last week the schools they replaced had used their pupils’ backgrounds as an excuse.
He explained: "They (academies) challenged the perception that schools were doing the best with what they had. They weren’t."
Mr Ughwujabo, who once turned down the chance to be head of a Harris academy, said St Mary’s 'fully comprehensive' intake was not being used as an excuse but could not be ignored.
Pointing to the intense competition for places at other Catholic high schools he added: "It is people that are unable to get into these places that come here.
"This is also the school which is nearest the Home Office.
"I can take you round and show you all the Afghani and Polish pupils who come here and speak no English at all. It can be difficult, but I rarely exclude.
"Even though they don’t get the GCSE grades, at least they achieve something.
"Our students might not revise because they are not from homes where their parents are well-informed and are helping to facilitate learning.
"They don’t come from backgrounds where someone in the family has gone through university or where they have two parents.
"I'm not making excuses but it would be wrong to throw out these factors."
St Mary’s, which has 719 pupils, is rated as satisfactory by Ofsted. One in five pupils has some form of special educational needs, 20 per cent qualify for free school meals and English is not the first language of 61 per cent of students.