The national press and political parties are fond of caricaturing and criticising our community schools and they have few chances to answer back.
In the first of what we hope will be a series of pieces on our local community schools, we feature a short interview with Lynette Parvez, headteacher at Kelmscott School in Waltham Forest.
How would you describe your school, briefly, to a stranger?
Warm welcoming – a really good place for children to learn.
Tell us one little known fact about your school.
I will make this a serious answer. One little known fact about Kelmscott is how many A and A* grades we get. Parents get so fixated on C grades they forget that it is the performance of the individual child that counts and there isn’t anything to celebrate if a child gets a C when they should be getting an A (or A*). In Kelmscott we have had a focus on this aspect of our teaching and this year we had 8 subjects achieve more A and A* grades than the National Average. Those subjects were, French, Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Geography, Physics, French and RE.
What is the funniest thing a pupil has ever said to you? Or, what is the funniest/most memorable thing that has happened to you as a head teacher?
Funny things happen every day. I like to see pupils’ happy and enjoying school. We have had lots of events over the years which are memorable but one of the best evenings was our Bollywood evening. Everyone got dressed up in Bollywood style outfits. We had a fashion show, dances, poems and of course lovely food to round off the evening. That was definitely one of the highlights of my time here.
What do you consider your greatest achievement as head of Kelmscott
You could say the obvious things like when we have had some really good examination results or when we have had good Ofsted inspections but to be honest one of the things I am really pleased about is my campaigning for a Zebra crossing outside of the school gates. In the first few years I was here I was petrified when I saw the pupils crossing Markhouse road with all that busy traffic. I kept asking the council to do something about it but I kept being told there was no money.
Eventually a child got hit by a car. Thank goodness the child suffered very little injuries but that was enough for me to go into overdrive. Luckily Councillor Saima Mahmood who held the portfolio for education at the time helped and hey presto the crossing was put in place. Even now I do not feel it is completely safe but I think it is better than before.
What would you say to a Y6 pupil trying to decide which secondary to apply to?
My message to a year 6 pupil would probably be chose the school that you feel you would be happy to attend. I strongly believe that if children are happy to come to school, they stand far more chance of doing well. Poor attendance is one of the main factors limiting a child’s achievement. I would explain to them that they should consider that they will be spending the next 5 years minimum of their lifes at the school so it has to be somewhere they (within reason!) want to be. Having said that I do feel strongly they should think about their local school because if they wish to take advantage of all the extra-curricular opportunities the school has they don’t want to be wasting time travelling a long distance when they could be enjoying a sports club or perhaps getting ready for a school play.
How does your school compare to the school you went to as a child?
Interestingly I moved to Walthamstow when I was 12 years old and we lived near Willowfield which is where I spent my year 9. In those days Willowfield was a Junior High which meant it only had pupils from what would now be called KS3. After year 9 all pupils moved on – most to the Senior High which was called McEntee. Today it is the Walthamstow Academy. Willowfield was a really lovely school and I can remember getting involved in lots of projects because they had something called the Spring Festival.
When I moved to McEntee it was very different. It was a much bigger school with older pupils. If I were to compare that school then with Kelmscott now, it is worlds apart. In those days you were left to sink or swim. No one tracked your progress or made you feel capable of succeeding. I wanted to choose Science for options but was told I wasn’t very good at Science. Eventually they allowed me to do Biology. Interestingly I went on to do a degree in Geography with Geology as my subsidiary so I have a Science degree. Kelmscott genuinely cares about each pupil and wants them to succeed. We do everything to keep pupils on track and prepared for their exams. For me this is the biggest difference.