The school that proves Michael Gove is right

Writing in the Telegraph, Toby Young argues that the results from London’s King Solomon Academy show that Michael Gove’s enthusiasm for schools to teach a knowledge-based curriculum to all has been vindicated…

Success has many fathers, and on Twitter the fight to claim credit for the results at King Solomon Academy has already begun. KSA is an all-through school in Paddington, London, sponsored by ARK, and its results are breathtaking.

First, the context. Twelve per cent of the children at the school have special educational needs, 51.1 per cent are on free school meals and 65.2 per cent don’t speak English as their first language. So a challenging cohort, the sort of pupils that critics of Michael Gove’s education reforms claim simply cannot manage to get five GCSEs at grade C or above, including maths and English, let alone do well in the EBacc subjects…

Okay, so how did they do, these lumpen proles written off as too thick to tackle academically rigorous GCSEs by the teaching unions? Well, to begin with 93 per cent got five A*-C, including maths and English. Not only that, but 95 per cent got A*-B in English Literature and a whopping 75 per cent of the entire GCSE cohort achieved the EBacc benchmark. To give you an idea of what an achievement this is, the percentage of pupils achieving the EBacc benchmark at Rugby last year was 64 per cent.

So how did KSA manage to get such extraordinary results? Well, obviously, the children deserve a lot of the credit, as do their teachers. But would they have done as well if KSA was a local authority school? I visited KSA in January of 2010 when the pupils who’ve just sat their GCSEs were in Year 7. The school had opened the previous September and one of the remarkable things about it was that the headteacher, Max Haimendorf, was only 28. He was a graduate of the Teach First programme and was taking full advantage of the freedoms KSA enjoyed in virtue of its academy status, particularly the freedom to depart from the national curriculum.

Some people will point out that KSA was set up under the previous government and therefore Labour deserves the credit, not the Coalition. It’s certainly true that Labour politicians who championed the academies policy, like Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis, deserve some of the credit for the success of KSA and other, similar schools, such as Mossbourne. But Labour’s education spokesmen in this Parliament have been very half-hearted in their support for academies, primarily because they don’t want to upset the teaching unions and the Left of the party, who’ve always been opposed to them…

But the essential point is that KSA has been doing exactly what Michael Gove would like all schools to be doing, namely, teaching every child a knowledge-based, subject-specific curriculum and expecting each of them to achieve the same standard as a child at a top independent school, regardless of background. This was the original vision behind comprehensives, which Harold Wilson described as “grammar schools for all”, and it’s a vision that Gove has kept faith with while Labour and the teaching unions have moved further and further away…

More at: The school that proves Michael Gove is right

Your thoughts on the success at King Solomon Academy and the conclusions drawn by Toby Young about the priorities championed by Michael Gove? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Academies.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Michael Gove’s “Young” disciple pipes up again; well done to the school but toadmeister’s blind worship of Gove is shameful

  2. This is a ridiculous piece of ideological guff. There are so many absurdities in it  I can’t bear to list them.

    Presumably the author passed some exams with high grades but chooses to ignore everything of value that might have been learned in the process.

  3. nrcantor

    SchoolsImprove Flawed argument. Assumes Gove’s rhetoric & his policies were consistent.
    Also, 1 outlier doesn’t disprove systemic flaws.

  4. lvan61

    SchoolsImprove Assumes that the role of a school is to teach knowledge when knowledge is no longer a currency but skills are.

  5. Janet2

    We don’t know the ability range of the intake.  Just because a pupil is ‘disadvantaged’ doesn’t mean they are low ability.  

    Funny how TY praises the ‘freedom’ to opt out of the National Curriculum then makes it clear how schools should use this ‘freedom’.  They must the Gove-endorsed Hirsch curriculum rehashed for England by the short-lived head of Pimlico Primary Free School, which is published by Civitas, promoted by the Curriculum Centre which is linked to schools minister Lord Nash who set up Future Academies, the academy chain which includes, among others, Pimlico Primary Free School.

    They create a prison and call it freedom.

  6. andesitictuff

    colinsparkbridg SchoolsImprove guardian comments re LangdalePrimary despite best efforts of Gove, chn are having a wonderful childhood

  7. ajjolley

    edujdw SchoolsImprove if the freedoms on curriculum are so important & make such a difference, why are we depriving from non academies?

  8. jess_madge

    colinsparkbridg SchoolsImprove A sample of one – not evidence of anything. First cohort to take GCSEs – what were the numbers?

  9. echeadmaster

    SchoolsImprove We’ve read it… Well done KCA pupils and staff. But it has no empirical, scientific, evidential credibility re Mr Gove.

  10. DrewQuayle

    SchoolsImprove An interesting article but quite light on evidence to subscribe their success to their knowledge-based curriculum. Surely?

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