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Education: A model approach

07 February 2014

Students are armed and ready to re-enact the Battle of Hastings as part of their history lessons at the new William Perkin C of E High School, in Greenford, Middlesex

Students are armed and ready to re-enact the Battle of Hastings as part of their history lessons at the new William Perkin C of E High Sc...

HOW does a diocese with popular, oversubscribed church schools meet the demand for places? In 2003, Tom Peryer, then the head of the London Diocesan Board for Schools, came up with an answer. Why not clone them, he suggested. One of the schools he had in mind was Twyford Church of England High - now an academy - in west London, whose head teacher, Alice Hudson, hated turning away children who wanted what her school offered.

A decade on, taking the opportunity provided by the free-schools initiative, Twyford, which now has its own academy trust, sought approval for a sister school with open admissions in another part of the borough in need of extra places, but with the same spiritual and community ethos. The Government approved, and funded a £19-million building on a site provided by the equally enthusiastic, Labour-led Ealing Council.

Before William Perkin High opened last September, 900 children had applied for 180 first-year places, which were all allocated solely on distance from the school. Its head teacher, Keir Smith, formerly the deputy head at Twyford, says: "We were up front about our C of E ethos: we said our twice-weekly assemblies included Christian worship, and that daily tutor-group sessions would include teaching about behaviour and ethics, based on Bible stories."

The school's official 10.10 ethos, and its etiquette, are based on verse 10, the tenth chapter of the Fourth Gospel ("The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly").

Would-be students and their parents also have to accept a long school day, which starts at 8 a.m. and finishes at 3.45 p.m., although children can stay on at study clubs and other activities until 5.30 p.m.

"We asked them 'Are you up for it?', and it seems they were," Mr Smith says. In fact, the children are lining up for the breakfast club before 7.30 a.m.

The curriculum is as innovative as the architecture. Academic subjects are taught in the mornings, including daily maths, English, and language lessons. The afternoon is reserved for the "creative curriculum", which includes IT, sports, art, and music. Every student learns an instrument.

The school's name commemorates William Perkin, a 19th-century chemist who invented a purple dye - reflected in the colour of the uniform - and manufactured it locally. He was also a Christian and local benefactor.

With another 900 applications for this September's 180-place intake, William Perkin is now as oversubscribed as Twyford. Does this mean more "Twyford" models?

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