Hackney school that gave 80 detentions daily named most unpopular school in London

A Hackney school is the most unpopular school in London, according to the latest admission figures.

Exclusive figures obtained by MyLondon have revealed the 12 most unpopular schools in the capital, with the Hackney New School topping the list.

The school, which is located on Kingsland Road, received only one first preference application for every 10 spaces available at the school, the lowest application to space ratio in London.

Read more: The London primary school so overcrowded that one class has 37 children

The majority of the schools topping the list cited historic bad reputations as the reason behind the low first preference applications, arguing that they had turned it around.

Hackney New School made headlines earlier this year after an ITV investigation revealed allegations of “extreme discipline” and pupils being referred to as “detainees”.

According to the investigation, 80 detentions were issued per day since the beginning of that academic year, totalling a whopping 7,500 detentions by May 2021.

There are 11 schools tied as the second most unpopular schools in London, with each receiving only two first preference offers for every 10 spaces available at each of the schools.

Those 11 schools and the borough they are in are, in no particular order are:

  • Grasvenor Avenue Infant School, Barnet

  • Ark Acton Academy, Ealing

  • Northolt High School, Ealing

  • The William Hogarth Primary School, Hounslow

  • Copenhagen Primary School, Islington

  • City Heights E-ACT Academy, Lambeth

  • Park Academy, Merton

  • St Mark’s Church of England Academy, Merton

  • Caterham High School, Redbridge

  • Twickenham School, Richmond

  • Wapping High School, Tower Hamlets

The data, which was published on June 17 this year, was based on figures from the Department of Education.

The offers were made, and data was collected based on the national offer days of 1 March 2021 (for secondary schools) and 16 April 2021 (for primary schools).

Hackney school under new management

According to the ITV investigation in May this year, 150 pupils attending the Hackney New School were given detentions in one day in 2020.

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Staff at the school were also given a handbook, which reportedly contained sexist language, to instruct their teaching.

The handbook contained the following statement: “Conforming, following rules, getting on with teachers, effort, conscientiousness, these are often considered ‘feminine’. Boys really, really don’t want to be perceived as feminine… They want their peers to see them as ‘normal’. Boys need the approval of other boys if they hope girls will fancy them.”

The Community Schools Trust, which manages the site, defended most of its practices to ITV and said it had inherited “broken school” whilst claiming the behaviour of pupils had significantly improved.

However, the trust did concede that the use of the word “detainees” was inappropriate and the language in the handbook was “unacceptable”.

Hackney New School’s headteacher Charlotte Whelan said the school is now "a calm, welcoming and purposeful learning environment”
Hackney New School’s headteacher Charlotte Whelan said the school is now “a calm, welcoming and purposeful learning environment”
(Image: Hackney New School)

The headteacher of Hackney New School, Charlotte Whelan, told MyLondon that the school is “unrecognisable” from where it was two years ago.

She said to MyLondon : “As every parent who has visited the school will testify, it is now a calm, welcoming and purposeful learning environment”.

“The school’s reputation and admissions data are the results of a poor reputation gained under the mismanagement of those who ran the school prior to my taking over.

“It is now under the governance and leadership of the Community Schools Trust which runs Forest Gate Community School – one of the best performing schools in the country. I am the former headteacher of Forest Gate Community School.”

Despite being the least popular school in the capital, the headteacher argues the school is now a “warm” and “friendly” environment with “well behaved” students.

She added: “Everyone who visits tells us we are now their school of choice.

“Anyone who wishes to find out what the school is really like is welcome to book one of our daily school’s tours. We are also hosting our open evening in October.”

Earlier this year, Ms Whelan claimed the school had almost eliminated bullying by banning conventional playtime games such as football at lunch and break times.

Instead of “unstructured play”, students at Hackney New School take part in supervised quizzes, poetry recitals or extracurricular activities

Two of the least popular schools revealed in the data are also located in East London, with the Caterham High School in Redbridge and the Wapping High School located in Tower Hamlets.

The Caterham High School, located on Caterham Avenue, received just two first preference votes for every 10 spaces available.

The headteacher, Belinda Chapple, said the school had taken “huge strides” in results and reputation in the past three years.

“In the last year of student exams in 2019, the school was ranked in the 25 most improved for GCSE results in the entire country. We are now above the national average for exam results,” the headteacher said.

“These admission stats are not actually reflective of the whole picture. The school has increased the number of students on roll every year for the previous three years and continues to grow in popularity.

“The reputation issues the school has faced in the last years are now very much historical. Of the 127 on roll in Year 7 this year, 91 chose the school as their first or second choice. The tide is clearly turning.”

The headteacher urged parents and local families to visit the school to see it “in action” during their hosting tours throughout September and October.

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Four of the least popular schools were located in West London: Ark Acton Academy (Ealing), Northolt High School (Ealing), The William Hogarth Primary School (Hounslow), and the Twickenham School (Richmond Upon Thames).

The Ark Acton Academy was previously known as the Acton High School, which was deemed ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2017. The school then became part of the Ark Network in 2018.

The Principal at Ark Acton Academy, Oli Knight, said the school is “committed to providing the best opportunities for all our students.”

“We are building a school here at Ark Acton that is successful both academically and in the wider development of our students. We are committed to providing the best opportunities for all our students, and I am proud of what we have achieved in just three years,” the Principle said.

“All students have the opportunity to flourish and thrive and are fully supported with their academic learning and enrichment activities. Despite a challenging year because of the pandemic, more than three-quarters of our sixth formers gained a place at a top university this summer. That’s above the national average.

“Our passionate teachers and staff are committed to continuing to build on these successes. In fact, our assistant principal was recognised as one of the country’s most inspirational teachers by the Department for Education earlier this year.”

‘The academy’s popularity will only grow’

Three schools are located in South and South West London including, City Heights E-ACT Academy (Lambeth), Park Academy (Merton) and St Mark’s Church of England Academy (Merton).

A spokesperson for Park Academy told MyLondon that, although the school may have been “less popular” within a previous academy trust, there is now a “growing passion for the academy and community.”

The Park Academy became part of the STEP Academy Trust, a multi-academy trust, in the summer of last year.

The spokesperson said: “There are challenges across Merton with regards to excessive school places and therefore for new and growing schools like Park Academy (which has now reached having its first Year 6 cohort), it takes time for our strong reputation to be known across the Local Authority.

“We do not have any concerns around its standing within the community and the academy’s popularity will only grow as it increases its time within the Trust.

“The latest Ofsted report grades the academy as Good in all areas and all aspects of strengths and development areas have been addressed by STEP Academy Trust over the last academic year, whilst working within a pandemic.”

City Heights E-ACT Academy, which was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, was also revealed to be one of the most unpopular schools in the capital.

The secondary school has just under 600 students and, a spokesperson for the school described it as “strong performing”.

An E-ACT spokesperson said: “It is a privilege to be part of such a diverse community in Lambeth. As our area is served by a number of schools, the local authority is working across the borough as there are spare secondary places every year.

“Covid restrictions have also meant that prospective families have not been able to visit schools. With restrictions eased, we are already seeing an uplift in interest in our academy for next year’s intake.

“We have developed important partnerships with Dulwich College, local schools and community groups including St Matthew’s Project and Goals 4 Girls. At City Heights, we believe the backgrounds of young people should never hold them back from achieving great things.”

MyLondon contacted the Grasvenor Avenue Infant School, Northolt High School, The William Hogarth Primary School, Copenhagen Primary School, St Mark’s Church of England Academy, Twickenham School and Wapping High School but did not receive a response.

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My London – Local News