Feltham Community College on the outskirts of west London doesn’t appear on a table of the best 100 schools in the country, but in the last four years it has turned its fortunes around. It also has another reason to feel proud – one of its alumni has recently won two Olympic gold medals.
Mo Farah came to the college just over a decade ago and formed an exceptionally strong bond with the place. He met his wife to be at Feltham. Alan Watkinson – the school’s PE teacher, who first spotted the future distance running world champion’s talent – went on to be Farah’s best man. The school specialises in sport and has clearly delivered – there’s no doubt that a double gold medal alumnus has had a positive effect on the students. They were more than aware of the connection before the Olympics; Farah’s face adorns the walls.
“The story of Mo Farah,” says student Amanda Curry who is still smiling from her A*, A, C result, “has always been around. We’ve always had posters of him just to remind ourselves that it is possible to exceed the reputation of a place and do well.”
And Feltham’s reputation needed to be overcome. Four years ago, the school was designated as a London Challenge school – in need of extra support – and being threatened with special measures if it didn’t turn things around.
But for a school where 31% are on free school meals, the results – 35% A*- B grades and over two thirds at A*–C are an achievement which can not be ascribed to posters alone.
The grades are part of the college’s long term trend of improvement and way up on last years results where only 41% of pupils scored A*–C. They even have an in-house prodigy to champion. William Cheung, who is in his final year of GCSEs, took maths A-level two years early and has just come away with an A. Unsuprisingly he is grinning ear-to-ear.
The pupils suggest it is down to the sheer energy of the deputy head, Jay Lockwood, who is in charge of the sixth form. At 28, he came to Feltham after quitting the City, on the Teach First programme which seeks to put the UK’s top performing graduates into deprived schools.
“There’s so much encouragement from Mr Lockwood as you can see,” says Curry as he comes bounding through double doors with a set of students following.