The school's motto – brought to the attention of its pupils daily – says it all: "Work hard, be nice and no excuses."
It wasn't always so. Its principal, Dame Sharon Hollows, recalls trying to persuade a neighbouring school to use the school's swimming pool. "They said no," she said. "When I asked them why, they said that when they had used it in the past, the children used to throw chairs at them out of the third floor window and spit at them."Lovely...
Who'd want a job cleaning out this Augean stables?
The task facing Dame Sharon as the first head of the new academy five years ago was immense.
Fourteen years ago, not a single pupil at the school achieved five A* to C grade passes at GCSE, including maths and English. A decade ago, the school was languishing in the bottom three of national school league tables with only 3 per cent.
Today it can boast 68 per cent A* to Cs – making it the top performing school in the city and above average for the country.Well, well, well. Academy status seems to have been the key...
"I have to say it has been different to my experience in London," she said. "There I've always worked with schools with very diverse ethnic school intakes. This one is not – this is predominantly white working class. The challenges are different.
"I met so many families here who just didn't have any expectations for anything other than generation on generation of dependence on the state."So what turned it around? Special treatment for those children experiencing 'difficulties'? Lowering expectations on them so they could be said to 'succeed'? All the things the NUT demand for their little fiefdoms?
It starts, though, with discipline and attendance, she said, so one of her first acts on taking over at Charter – apart from ensuring the motto was printed on the front of the school building for all to see when they arrived – was to insist on the wearing of a school uniform.
She also hired a team of pastoral support workers – ex-Royal Navy personnel – who patrolled the school sorting out problems.
"The Navy is a very valuable source of personnel," she said. "Most of them retire from the navy in their early forties."
If children did not turn up at school, a car was immediately despatched to their home to bring the recalcitrant pupils into school. If it did not find them on the first visit, the car went back again.
Staff also patrol the school gate before and after school to make sure the pupils arrive and leave in an orderly fashion.I'm astounded!
Naomi Carter, a vice-principal at the school who worked at St Luke's before the changes, said: "It has been a real privilege working for this school. In the olden days, the staff weren't challenged, the kids weren't challenged. Now it's made clear. If you're going to come here, you're going to work."No wonder the progressives are worried! All the things they decry about formal education have been shown to work...
...other state schools in a similar situation come to Dame Sharon Hollows to learn from her.
"They are very keen to see what we've done," she said, The key, she is telling them, is to put an end to any conscious or subconscious thought along the lines of "What can you expect from these kids?".Gove's vision is winning. Can he weather the backlash from the vested interests? I really, really hope so.