Flagship Thamesmead academy prospering
PUBLISHED: 10:16 22 November 2012
When The Business Academy, Bexley, first opened in September 2002, then Prime Minister Tony Blair described it as "the future of education".
A decade on, the school’s results have improved dramatically and continue to do so.
The academy, which educates four to 18 year olds, was previously Thamesmead Community College and before its reincarnation had one of the worst sets of GCSE results in the country.
Chief executive Sam Elms has been with The Business Academy since the beginning. She first took on the role of dealing with the school’s PR for free after meeting sponsor Sir David Garrard, before progressing to take on the chief executive position full-time five years ago.
She said: “This school was the ideal candidate to be an academy – results were dreadful and the area had catastrophic levels of social failure.
“The community college was put into special measures and taken out just before we opened. Realistically it shouldn’t have been because it was in a mess. Students were demoralised and weren’t used to academic rigour and we had to establish that from scratch.”
Sam deals with the business and finance side of the academy and leaves the education to executive principal Christina Moon, secondary head Guy Nichols and primary head Andy Nicholas.
It is these individuals who she credits with further improving standards in the past few years, along with the aspirations of students.
“This place definitely has its magic. There has been a significant behavioural change in the three years I’ve been here,” explains Christina.
“The academies programme was what enabled The Business Academy to be born – something different was needed for schools in areas of deprivation and nothing was on the horizon. But it is the staff and students who have really made it successful.”
Tahlia Williamson, 17, joined the school in Year Four when it opened.
She said: “The change has been unbelievable. It’s something you would only believe if you’d been here.”
Alex Lynch, 16, added: “The reputation the school had was fair. It was shocking but we’ve come a long way.”
Guy Nichols arrived five years ago with some scepticism about the school he described as being on “the Clockwork Orange estate”. But he says it is the best move he ever made.
“Thamesmead deserves a great school. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, everyone is entitled to a decent education.
“At the start all the government wanted to know was what you were doing differently to innovate, rather than what effect it was actually having on the kids.
“There wasn’t the sense of pride there is now. We’ve done the necessary things to raise standards, but there’s still a long way to go.”
During a visit to the school last week, Baron Adonis said: “You have come a long way in a decade but there is still a huge challenge ahead of you. Continuing to raise standards is the most important aspect.”
While results have improved massively in the past decade, the leadership team knows they need to keep raising standards and performances as a beacon of the academies programme which has changed the whole face of education in England.