John White: Help for Hammersmith schools to start chess clubs

A guest post by John White, the PR Officer of the Hammersmith Chess Club

Hammersmith Chess was founded in 1962.

We meet most Monday nights at Lytton Community Hall near West Kensington Station. You can find more information on our website.

We welcome chess players of all strengths from beginners to strong experienced players. With over sixty members, our club reflects the cosmopolitan environment that is Hammersmith.

We are a very active club with participation in three different chess leagues, internal competitions, training evenings and special event evenings -all open to the members. Currently, we run eight chess teams giving all our members ample opportunity to play competitive games and gain an official chess rating.

The club is also active internationally with a visit to an Amsterdam chess club last June and a coming one to Cork in June this year. Indeed, later in the same month we will be hosting visitors from both clubs for a chess weekend in Hammersmith.

Last year we ran a chess event in Lyric Square in support of Hammersmith MIND that raised £400 for that very important organisation. We will be repeating the event on the 19th May this year, and hope to raise even more money. I must mention Helen Pinnington and the events team at Fulham & Hammersmith Council who have been tremendously supportive in this matter.

We strongly believe in chess as an educational aid that has been demonstrated to help children perform better, academically, at school. If any school in Hammersmith needs help with setting up a chess club or any advice please feel free to contact us,

If you have an interest in chess whether casual or serious, please come down to the club and pay us a visit. The first visit is free and the tea and biscuits are on us.

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West London Zone will help over 400 children in 15 schools this year – including many in Shepherd’s Bush

In 2011 the social entrepreneur Danny Kruger visited New York to see the work of the Harlem Children’s Zone and tweets that he “came home dreaming of a Children’s Zone in London, bringing together schools, charities, councils & philanthropists to transform a neighbourhood.”

The result was the establishment of the West London Zone which will work with over 400 children in 15 schools this year, organising tailored support from 15 specialist charities to children at risk:

“We work with local schools, nurseries and children’s centres (our ‘anchors’) to identify the children and young people who would benefit from a range of new opportunities in school, provided by our partners.  This work is coordinated by our Link Workers, based in the anchors, who work closely with children and young people to help them make use of the opportunities on offer. Behind the scenes, the WLZ ‘backbone’ team manages the finance which supports our partners and collects data on their performance.”

We are now starting to see some evidence of what is being achieved. The initial results from 2016/17 show an average 85 per cent of engagement by children with an academic improvement and an improvement in wellbeing “which are  both statistically significant and attributable to WLZ.”

The way the charity is funded is also innovative:

“WLZ’s collaborative model of service delivery is reflected in the project’s innovative financing structure. The Collective Impact Bond (CIB) is inspired by the concept of a Social Impact Bond (SIB). For WLZ, it involves bringing together multiple commissioners – the ‘buyers’ of a broad range of positive outcomes for children and young people – from the public and private sectors, and multiple investors providing working capital to make the project happen.”

It is backed by a social investment from Bridges Fund Management. Councils, schools (using some of their “pupil premium” budget) and the Government pay on results.

“Pilot anchors” were Randolph Beresford Early Years Centre, Ark Swift Primary Academy and Phoenix High School. Details of the pilot are here. It reports:

“WLZ Value to Schools We have learned that schools value three outcomes which are core to WLZ’s model going forward: attendance, attainment, and mental wellbeing. Beyond this, schools were attracted by WLZ’s ability to target the right children, to reach beyond the school gates into the community, and provide local, strengths-based support. They saw WLZ’s positive engagement with children and families and appreciated the high level of contact time the Link Workers achieved with each child, as well as our ability to coordinate and performance-manage local support organisations and undertake high-quality outcome data reporting. Our ability to triple the funds that schools will commit next year via matched payments from the local authority and private wealth, with central government/Big Lottery top-up in addition, is also compelling.”

The most recent data confirms that children helped by WLZ are catching up with their reading:

“Last year, WLZ supported 41 children at a primary and secondary school with Real Action and Beanstalk – two of our charity partners who both focus on literacy and reading.

“Our analysis of English Reading scores at this primary school between December 2016 and March 2017 showed a statistically significant relationship (p<0.01) between minutes attended at partner reading support (Real Action sessions and/or 1:1 reading with a Beanstalk reading volunteer) and positive changes in reading score.

“On average, every 52 minutes attended led to a 1% increase in a child’s national percentile rank in reading.

“54% of the WLZ cohort lifted themselves out of bottom 20% nationally in reading after one term of reading support from Real Action and Beanstalk charities.”

Also:

“Preliminary analysis suggests that the average rate of improvement in mental wellbeing (measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, known as ‘SDQ’) among the WLZ cohort was double the rate of their peers in one of our secondary schools.”

Several schools and children’s centres in Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush are using WLZ:

  • Phoenix Academy
  • Ark Swift Primary Academy
  • Randolph Beresford Early Years Centre
  • Wendell Park Primary School
  • Old Oak Primary School
  • Ark Burlington Danes Academy
  • Miles Coverdale Primary School
  • Ark Bentworth Primary Academy
  • Ark Conway Primary Academy
  • West London Free School
  • Sacred Heart High School

It’s still early days, I suppose. But what an exciting thought that this initial success could not only grow locally but be replicated elsewhere.

New Head chosen for West London Free School

Congratulations to Clare Wagner who has been chosen as the new headteacher of the West London Free School from January.

She takes over from Hywel Jones who has left to become primary director at the Inspiration Trust.

Clare was previously headmistress of Watford Grammar School for Girls.

The Times Educational Supplement says:

“The history graduate entered teaching in her early thirties after having children, and trained at what was then the Slough Grammar School.

“She taught in the independent sector, at Southampton High School and North London Collegiate School, a top performing girls’ school where she was inspired by the headmistress at the time, Bernice McCabe.”

Asked what attracted her to the West London Free School, Clare told the newspaper:

“I think it’s the ambitious curriculum, and being ambitious for the children, and wanting to give them all the advantages of a really good education, and that’s an all-round education.

“I think it’s great they all learn Latin, I think that’s very important, but all the subjects are very strong there. Also, the competitive sports are brilliant – it’s so good for kids to be out there playing and playing hard.”

Westminster Abbey marks Centenary of Lady Margaret School

Tuesday October 17th was a very special day for Lady Margaret School with a service to celebrate the Centenary of Lady Margaret School at Westminster Abbey attended by their Centenary Patron HRH Princess Alexandra.

The girls walked from Parsons Green to Putney Pier and traveled by boat to Westminster.  They were led off the boat by PC Proffitt and greeted by Headteacher Ms Elisabeth Stevenson.

The Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham also attended as did many members of local clergy, Greg Hands MP and alumnae.

Fulham Boys School hits back after unfair racist slur

There has been some completely unfair attacks on Fulham Boys School in the media. The allegation of racism due to a boy not being allowed to attend with dreadlocks is quite outrageous.

The charge that the strict rule on hair length amounts to religious discrimination is also pretty dubious. Courtney Hamilton on Spiked writes:

“The Rastafarian author Barbara Blake Hannah argues that Rastafarians are essentially Christian – they read and quote from the Bible. And what does the custom of wearing dreadlocks have to do with Biblical tradition? Absolutely nothing, according to the Grenadian humanist Seon M Lewis, author of From Mythology to Reality: Moving Beyond Rastafari.”

The school makes the rules very clear. The rules apply to everyone. Parents who wish their children to be taught at a school with different rules should not choose Fulham Boys School.

The school’s headmaster Alun Ebenezer says:

At the start of our fourth school year I’d like to use my blog to reaffirm why we are doing what we are doing – and who we are doing it for.

Why we do what we do

Our pledge, and unflinching resolve, is to be one of the best schools in this country state or private in the next ten years.

To achieve this and pull off the seeming impossible, we have created and constantly reinforce a very distinctive ethos. It is an ethos that is built upon the Christian faith, nurtures enterprise and is geared towards boys. Our ethos and culture is made clear in all our policies and on our website. Furthermore, whenever I speak in public about the school on open days, open evenings or at transition events I make it clear what our school ethos is and refer to our firm discipline and strict rules on uniform and appearance at all times. We constantly remind our boys about the importance of standards. Standards, standards, standards! Knowing how to behave appropriately in different settings – assembly, lessons, on the sports field, to and from school, in the dining room, in the library, walking through corridors, relaxing or letting off steam at break and lunch. Ensuring their uniform is always immaculate and strict rules about hair.

Our policy on uniform and appearance isn’t driven by our Christian ethos. To be a Christian you don’t need to have your hair a particular length or style, neither do you need to wear a blazer, an upper or lower school tie. We have a strict uniform policy because we maintain boys need strict discipline and firm boundaries.  Too pernickety? Too strict? Ask British businesses, law firms and banks what they think. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37244180?scrlybrkr=5c7c1b5b#

Do these policies and firm boundaries somehow constrain boys’ development, creativity or expression?  We think the opposite. Not only are our boys well behaved, they are also well rounded and happy – as is reflected in our Ofsted report. And as the Tri Borough safeguarding lead officer said after her visit to FBS, ‘If there was ever a school whose ethos was embedded with students being happy, safe and well,  The Fulham Boys School was a shining light in this element…if any colleagues from other schools ever wanted to see what a happy and safe school looked like, The Fulham Boys School would be first on my list of schools to send them to look at’.

When I take stock of what all our boys have achieved in the first three years – the sporting trophies, their performances on stage and outstanding work in the classroom – I believe that we are on course to achieve our ambitions aim to be one of the very best. And what I think really sets us apart is that the behaviour and attitude of our boys is exceptional. They are maturing and becoming self-disciplined young men – as Ofsted put it our ‘Boys live and breathe good manners and courtesy’.

Who we are doing it for

But who is all this for? All Fulham Boys.

FBS has a complete cross section of boys. As a non-fee paying school, we are able to draw in a far more diverse demographic than private schools. When it comes to preparing boys for life, this gives FBS boys a huge advantage. Fulham has a vibrant mix of cultures and some of the most expensive housing in London alongside pockets of significant deprivation. Our boys learn valuable lessons from mixing with each other, crossing socio-economic divides, and learning from each other’s perspectives rather than falling back on ‘group think’. No boy is allowed to use his upbringing or background as an excuse for not meeting our high standards, or as a barrier to achievement.

Our demographic proves this. 7% of our boys have Special Educational Needs and the support we give these young men was praised by Ofsted. 22% of our boys have Free School Meals, 43% are Pupil Premium. 15% of our boys come from private primary schools. 18% have English as an additional language (EAL). 7% of our boys are Asian, 10% are Black African, 13% are Black Caribbean, 1% Moroccan, 47% White British, 3% White Eastern European, 7% White Western European, 5% Other mixed background, 1% other ethnic group and 6% White other.  These are Fulham boys.

Everyone is welcome.  As Ofsted commented ‘Christian values of the school are clear while at the same time everyone is welcome and included’ . FBS opened four years ago to provide for all Fulham boys, not for a particular type of Fulham boy.

For those that choose to come, we ask them to embrace our ethos and understand that our school rules are geared to support this.  As with most rules, there are exceptions; the rules allow for these. And if our rules are tested, and found lacking, we do what we teach our boys to do – to reflect, understand and learn. Ofsted referred to our ethos as ‘incredible’. It drives what we do, and who we do it for.

Exam success for local schools

Plenty for local schools to celebrate from this year’s exam results.

To give just a few examples.

75 per cent of Hammersmith Academy pupils achieved five GCSEs at A*-C equivalent, 65 per cent achieved five A*-C including English and Maths. Across all students there were 100 A*s or equivalent (compared to last year’s 50) and 166 A grades.

The school also achieved it’s best ever A-level grades.  Over 80 per cent of its pupils are going on to university.

At the West London Free School there were also excellent results – 80 per cent  of pupils achieved a 4 or above in English and Mathematics (equivalent to a C or above).

Toby Young, the WLFS founder points out that 38.5 per cent of pupils at the school are eligible for Pupil Premium – well above the national average of 29.3 per cent.

Latymer Upper School achieved its best ever A* results at A Level – 34 per cent. Furthermore 100 per cent of pupils achieved A*-C in all GCSEs taken.

Warm congratulations to all concerned.

Stephen Greenhalgh: The remarkable Hurlingham Academy turnaround

Stephen Greenhalgh is Chairman of Governors at the Hurlingham Academy and a former Hammersmith & Fulham council leader‎.

London is an engine of opportunity but there has been a disturbing decline in social mobility in recent years. Someone born into the poorest quarter of society 50 years ago had a greater chance of working their way up to a higher economic group than a young person today. The people at the bottom of our society are being left further and further behind.

It is London ‘s schools that drive social mobility in the capital and provide the key to tackling a poverty of aspiration.

Last week two students had particular cause for celebration given that they had only been in this country for less than a year:

Sunday Eguaroje achieved a grade 9 in maths and eight As. Sunday started at the Hurlingham Academy in October 2016 after arriving from Nigeria.

Maria Pahat achieved a grade 9 in english literature five A*and one A and 2 sevens. Maria started at the school in September 2016 after arriving from Romania‎.

This year 72% of the Hurlingham students achieved five or more 4-9 GCSE grades including english and maths – up from 63% in 2016. This is well above the national average and is the second year of record GCSE results at the school.

‎This school has had a turbulent history. It was described as a “failing school” in the pilot Ofsted inspections in 1994, which prompted discussions of closure. Provision was then judged ‘good’ by Ofsted in 1997 and the school was highlighted for its improvement in HMCI’s 1999 Annual Report.

However, the school was designated as a “school facing challenging circumstances” in 2003 because results were consistently below the government floor targets. In March 2004 the school was placed under special measures. In November 2005 the school emerged from special measures.

Back in 2006 when we formed the first majority Conservative administration on Hammersmith & Fulham Council since 1968, we were eager to make an immediate impact. We tried to close the school in the teeth of opposition from all our community schools. This was a mistake and we stopped the closure process. In January 2008, the school was highlighted as the most improved school in London (for the proportion of students achieving at least 5 A*-C grades at GCSE) and in July 2011 was judged to be ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

I joined the governing body in June 2012 thinking that I was joining a school that had been finally “turned around”‎.

It was yet another false dawn. That year the school’s GCSE results nosedived. In October 2013, the school was once again inspected by Ofsted receiving an overall “inadequate” rating and I became Chair of the Interim Executive Board when the governing body was disbanded.‎ On 1 January 2015 the school changed from a council-run school to an Academy as part of United Learning and I have continued as chair of the local governing body.‎‎

My long involvement with the school both as council leader and as chairman of governors has given me a certain perspective. I am convinced that this turnaround is finally for real – a‎nd that the single biggest factor has been the leadership.

Schools like the Hurlingham Academy need great heads. I pay tribute to the inspiring leadership of our head, Leon Wilson. Leon has thrived with the support of his former boss, Dame Sally Coates, now a director at United Learning. It was Dame Sally who famously turned around Burlington Danes Academy in White City.‎

My message is simple: We need great leaders in these tough state schools and they need to be supported by professionals who know what they are talking about from their own experience.‎