The London school ranked among best for GCSE results where pupils finish early every Friday

By Staff

An East London secondary school where pupils and teachers get to finish at lunchtime every Friday and………… is consistently being recognised among the best schools in the country. Forest Gate Community School is unique as it’s the only non-selective comprehensive in the country to have made it into the top 50 schools for GCSE results five years in a row.

The leaders of the school attribute their success to hiring high quality teachers who mirror the ethically and socially diverse community they serve. Excluding the Covid years, when grades were assessed by teachers, this Newham school has consistently outshone other schools, despite serving one of the poorest communities in Britain.

Their exam results are better than those of grammar and private schools, as well as state schools in exclusive neighbourhoods. The school provides free exam tuition every day in Year 11, with students coming into school at 7 am and revising past 4:30 pm.

READ MORE: South London headteacher says teachers missing school because of mouldy homes and kids making 2-hour journeys to school

They’ve also started offering additional weekly classes for Year 7 students to practice their English and maths revision, giving them a head start on their exams. Since 2017, their progress score has been above plus 1 every year, meaning pupils earn on average roughly one grade higher in their GCSEs than at other schools. This year, they also ranked 27th in the country for GCSE exam results for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

There is also a scholarship program which has seen deprived youngsters win around £2m in all-expenses-paid places at top fee-paying schools, including Eton. Ishak Ayris, Kaashif Kamaly, and Ilyan Benamor all left East London to follow in the footsteps of Princes Harry and William at the world’s most famous school. Over 40 students have won scholarship places at fee paying school all funded by the private schools.

Secret to success at the school

Remarkably the school managed to get all of this done on a four half day week, with staff and students leaving at lunch every Friday. Executive headteacher Thahmina Begum says the secret to success is excellent teachers.

She explained: “The key to our success is consistently outstanding teaching. That means recruiting well and providing excellent training so that we have the very best of the best staff.

“It also means recruiting staff and leaders who reflect the communities they serve. Our leadership team is very diverse in terms of ethnicity and background. Most of our staff are from working class backgrounds who can relate to the children they teach.

“Our teachers have walked the same path as the children, they understand the challenges, they are relatable, and as consequence the children listen to them. This is not rocket science, if children are well prepared for their exams they have a better chance of passing them.

“If they pass their exams they can take A Levels, go to university, and then get a good job. We are preparing them for the next steps in their journey.”

‘Our teachers will run through brick walls for our children’

The school is part of the Community Schools Trust, which runs four other schools in London as well as one in Norfolk. CEO Simon Elliott said: “We have always believed that the secret to an outstanding school is consistently excellent teaching.

“Teaching isn’t just about subject knowledge, though that is crucial, it is also about the capacity to communicate with young people. Anyone who has brought up a teenager will tell you sometimes that is not an easy task. That is why it is crucial to recruit teachers who are relatable.

“They are also the most motivated. They will run through brick walls for our children because they know what is waiting beyond these walls if they fail in their education. To do all this for our children you need incredibly dedicated staff. That’s why we took the decision to move to a four and half day week. We want to reward our staff for their incredible commitment.”

Progress 8 is the government benchmark for measuring school success, charting pupils’ progress from when they start and leave school. There only four schools to appear in the top 50 five years in a row, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023. In 2020 and 2021, grades were assessed by teachers. These have not been included.

The other schools include Wilson School, a grammar school, and two Muslim girls’ schools, Preston Muslim Girls High School and Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High, both of which have small and selective intakes.

Forest Gate Community has over 1300 pupils, with more than a third being classed as disadvantaged. In 2022, the school reported that 45 per cent of its pupils were on free school dinners and 70 per cent did not have English as their first language.

However, two-thirds of the staff are from BAME backgrounds, which is also reflected in the leadership team. The school has been rated outstanding three times by Ofsted.

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