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New head aims to fill up school classrooms

PUBLISHED: 15:54 22 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:12 14 October 2010

A ONCE struggling school is now one of the best in Islington – but is still failing to get enough pupils. Islington Arts and Media School is finally breaking free of its negative reputation. Ten years ago it appeared as a school in meltdown in a highly-c

A ONCE struggling school is now one of the best in Islington - but is still failing to get enough pupils.

Islington Arts and Media School is finally breaking free of its negative reputation.

Ten years ago it appeared as a school in meltdown in a highly-critical BBC2 television documentary series entitled Head on the Block. And three years ago, it was criticised by the government when only 27 per cent of GCSE-takers achieved five A* to Cs including English and maths.

But during the past 10 years, the school has also been working to turn around its fortunes. And this summer, it notched up one of the best set of GCSE results in the borough - with 95 per cent of GCSE-takers getting five A*-Cs, and 45 per cent getting five A*-Cs including English and maths.

But despite these impressive results, IAMS in Turle Road, Finsbury Park, is struggling to fill its school roll - with only two-thirds of this year's 150 Year Seven places taken.

Diana Osagie, who was a deputy headteacher at the school for nine years before being made headteacher this month, said: "That documentary was 10 years ago and people have not caught up with the good news story that has happened at IAMS."

Ms Osagie attributes IAMS' turnaround to a no-nonsense approach to discipline and an overhaul of the curriculum. Students now start their GCSEs in Year Nine rather than Year 10 - which means they can spread out their studies more and not take all their final exams in Year 11.

She said: "The previous headteacher, Richard Ewen, came here in 2000 with two new deputies and we took a no-nonsense approach. There was zero tolerance in terms of low expectations, absence, bullying and behaviour - and I think pupils want strict and firm boundaries.

"What's also changed has been the curriculum. It's a challenging, high-expectation curriculum. Before it wasn't pushing for those higher grades."

Ms Osagie blames IAMS' struggle to fill its roll on not only its historic reputation - but also on the opening of new academies in Islington and Hackney.

She said: "When academies open with shiny new buildings, parents are attracted to the novelty of that. But they are not tried and tested in terms of results. They are not tried and tested in terms of staff."

Ms Osagie, 39, is determined to make IAMS similarly popular - pointing out that it too will have a £14million new building by 2012. She said: "I think when people realise how good we are, and they come to see our school, then we will be full. There is a hidden diamond in Islington - and that's us."

Parents interested in sending their children to IAMS can visit during a series of open days: October 4 from 5pm to 8pm, October 5 and 6 from 9.30am to 10.30am, October 11 from 5pm to 7pm, October 12 and 13 from 9.30am to 10.30am.


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