Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tough Talk at the Top

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tough Talk at the Top

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jane Pikett

Nigel McQuoid protests too much.

I understand why, mind you. As the head of a city academy with all its attendant politics, he is used to criticism, much of it unfounded.

He is a good man, driven by a passionate desire to create an inspirational school. His motives are good, as are those of the Emmanuel Foundation, headed by Sir Peter Vardy, which has invested millions in the three schools it has created.

But there are plenty of people taking repeated pops at McQuoid and the foundation, primarily because of their deeply held Christian beliefs.

McQuoid, the former head of the Gateshead school, Emmanuel College, and now head of the new King's Academy in Middlesbrough, is understandably frustrated.

"There is a lobby against the concept of public private partnerships and our religious concept. Those are two things to bash the Emmanuel Foundation over the head with. The tactic is to start a rumour before we go anywhere and make people afraid."

Nigel McQuoid preaches the gospel according to Nigel McQuoid. Presumably fed up with answering criticism based on rumour, he engages in lengthy sermons rather than waiting for questions ( or answering them directly when they do.

But Emmanuel has always been vastly over-subscribed and now has 1,260 pupils.

It opened in the privileged position of being a new, fantastically equipped school with just 150 11-year-olds. It didn't inherit any children or teachers. A clean sheet. But there was a downside. They had five years to groom that first intake for GCSE, so there were no great exam results to attract the next intake, and the next. Yet still people clamoured to get their children in.

The year that first intake took their GCSEs, 75pc got five A-Cs. Today, around 95pc achieve that each year. It is a major success, yet there are still accusations of privilege and elitism. "We were an expensive model," says McQuoid, "but we have proved ourselvesa There were accusations that we were creaming off the clever kids, which wasn't true, but we've never really shaken that, probably because our results have got better and better. …

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