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Model East End school opens without gates or fences

PUBLISHED: 15:00 04 March 2011 | UPDATED: 14:59 28 August 2015

Head teacher Graham Price

Head teacher Graham Price

Spencer Griffiths

IT USED to be a rough and tumble failing school with bad discipline and dismal exam results, hidden behind walls with locked gates to keep the kids in while teachers struggled to get through the day.

Head Boy Prince Ahmed and Head Girl Khudeja KobirHead Boy Prince Ahmed and Head Girl Khudeja Kobir

Now, St Paul’s Way Trust is the ‘flagship’ model school in London’s deprived East End in its new campus.

It doesn’t have the old school gate, nor surrounding tall fences.

The £16 million ‘showpiece’ in Bow Common has its smart entrance right on the street in St Paul’s Way—you are greeted by smiling staff and senior pupils at the reception desk.

Open plan of new campusOpen plan of new campus

Head-teacher Graham Price, who took over just two-and-a-half years ago to pull it out of its gloom, was at the reception desk to greet the two local MPs and Mayor of Tower Hamlets to guide them on a tour at yesterday’s grand opening.

“There are no gates or fences here, just a privet hedge,” he told them. He quoted post-war Jewish writer Maisey Moscow: “Fences enough, already—let’s build pathways.”

It is a new beginning for a school that was failing in its dingy, 1970s concrete buildings being bulldozed at the back.

St Paul’s Way was on ‘notice to improve’ by Government Ofsted inspectors before Mr Price was appointed in late 2008.

Head Boy Prince Ahmed recalled: “We’ve changed from bad management and bad behaviour. Now we have a clear vision.”

Prince already has a Young Students degree under his belt at 16, in business and entrepreneurship. JP Morgan’s investment bank has offered him an internship at Canary Wharf in the summer, with a job placement at the end.

Head girl Khudeja Kobir, 16, studies chemistry, biology, physics, photography and maths, but still finds time to care for her fellow students.

“We listen to them and help make changes,” she explains. “We mentor them if they have problems and can’t talk to their parents, teachers or their friends.” Khudeja wants to be a doctor.

The move to a ‘trust’ school was controversial, but went ahead in a partnership between Tower Hamlets and London University’s Queen Mary College. Now it is one of the country’s top 50 improved schools and plans to open a sixthform in September.

The school choir sang ‘The impossible Dream’ for the VIPs. Graham Price recalled the Town Hall’s “vision to move the school forward”—the ‘impossible dream’ was now reality.

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PICTURES: Spencer Griffiths

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