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Charles gives royal approval to failing’ school threatened with closure

PUBLISHED: 21:05 15 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:27 05 October 2010

Prince, pupils and just time for a quick cuppa... Exclusive Advertiser pictures by Joe Lord

Prince, pupils and just time for a quick cuppa... Exclusive Advertiser pictures by Joe Lord

PRINCE Charles came to London’s East End today to meet pupils and staff of a failing’ school that only four weeks ago was warned it faced closure. Bethnal Green Technology College was one of 600 schools on a Government hit list’ earmarked for closure unless at least 30 per cent of its pupils got five good GCSEs by 2011. Now an injection’ by an education charity recruiting top graduate teachers is turning the school around. But the day really belonged to the kids as they stretched out their arms to touch the Prince, some managing to shake his hand

Reporter Gemma Collins

Photographer Joe Lord

PRINCE Charles came to London’s East End today (Tuesday) to meet pupils and staff of a failing’ school that only four weeks ago was warned it faced closure if it didn’t improve.

Bethnal Green Technology College was one of 600 schools on a Government hit list’ last month and was earmarked for closure... unless it could make sure at least 30 per cent of its pupils got at least five good GCSEs including English and Maths by 2011.

But an injection’ by an education charity recruiting top graduates as teachers is turning the school around.

It received royal approval’ when Prince Charles came on a lightning visit at lunchtime.

He came to see how the Teach First programme was operating in a challenging’ school with its high grade recruitment.

The school just three years ago was blasted by Ofsted inspectors as failing’ and was put on special measures.

But last year there was a U-turn with headteacher Mark Keary at the lead.

The school was later praised by inspectors for its “immense improvements” with higher exam results.

It is still on the Government’s 'hit list' for having only 27 per cent of pupils getting five good GCSEs.

But Charles highlighted the head’s “remarkable and crucial role” in the improvements.

“I want to give congratulations to him for his immense courage which has made a difference to so many young people’s lives,” said the Prince.

“Nothing is more important than the quality of teachers in catching the imagination in the most challenging schools.

“We need to ensure teachers like these maintain a deep passion for their subject.”

The Teach First’ educational charity recruits outstanding graduates from top universities and trains them to become good teachers.

Each graduate spends two years in challenging’ inner city schools like Bethnal Green Technical College, which has nine Teach First recruits in its classrooms, four of whom stayed on after their initial training period ended.

Mark Keary later insisted that pupils who had been there from a young age were now coming out with high GCSE grades.

It was the kids expelled from other schools who had only joined the technology college in Year 10 who were bringing down the averages.

“That is the unfortunate reality to measurements of performance,” he told the East London Advertiser.

“They should take into account that last year we had 115 pupils in Year 11 who had come from other schools, or had just come into the country, which does cause a significant change.

“Yet it’s not an issue for us. We are making progress on all fronts. There is no complacency.”

Charles, who has recently accepted the role as the Teach First charity’s patron, was joined for today’s visit to by Schools Parliamentary Under-Secretary State Lord Andrew Adonis, chair of Teach First Dame Julia Cleverdon and Tower Hamlets Mayor Mohammed Salique.

The Prince spoke to teachers as well as East London business representatives who had donated cash to the programme.

Then he stopped for a quick cuppa, brewed lovingly by the school cook, before being whisked round the huge campus on his 90-minute tour.

But the day really belonged to the kids as they jostled forward at the school gates in the sweltering sun as Prince Charles was about to leave.

They stretched out hundreds of arms to touch the royal visitor, some even managing to shake his hand.

Others grabbed their mobile phones to snap the Heir to the Throne who had come to their school.

The jewel on the crowning visit had been Prince Charles watching the youngsters on stage performing a fairytale they had written themselves, based on the transformation of the school—from a prison’ to a new world’.

The Prince gave that his royal seal of approval’ as well.

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