I love to see step-change and innovation. It doesn't matter what sector, what issue or what the perceptions, a step-change with momentum and support can bring big change. I read a feature in the 14th May colour supplement in the Telegraph on the ARK (Absolute Return for Kids) charity and the Evelyn Grace Academy. For over 1000 kids in Brixton, the Evelyn Grace Academy is giving them the tools and opportunity to choose what they want from life.
The school cost £38million to build and it was built by monies from the Ark charity, a charity founded 10 years ago by the French financier Arpad Busson to raise the bar for children living in the most disadvantaged communities. Last year Ark received £400 million from its donors to support its children's welfare programmes across the world. The school also received £2million in private contribution from David Gorton, the school's key Governor.
Evelyn Grace is one of 8 such schools, 6 in London, one in Birmingham and one in Portsmouth.
Brixton has a history of being a deprived area and, at times, a troubled area. Many of the children love coming to school because it is an escape from their home lives. This academy is strict in a 1950s style way (without the corporal punishment), it treats every child as an individual and it is very over subscribed with applicants 4:1. Quoted kids say things like you're singled out if you're an academic 'nerd' in most schools, in this school it's the opposite. Here kids are encouraged to fulfil their potential.
The core values at Evelyn Grace are self-discipline, endeavour and excellence with an unshakeable belief that deployment of the first two will achieve the last. Ark draws its philosophy, particularly its belief in the small school model, from the American Charter School movement, which has an emphasis on academic rigour, discipline and strong relationships with caring adults. Counsellors (16 I think) are on hand to deal with any personal issues amongst the children.
Teachers are the ones that 'get' the model and have boundless enthusiasm for the children. As a result of the teachers and the structure, these kids have high aspirations and drive.
What a refreshing feature this was to read. So often education and schooling is criticised... this approach and this place deserves huge praise. To read the feature go to: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/8497435/Inner-city-academy-thats-a-blueprint-for-the-future.html