You might remember my story about Salimah: our star student who happily received an offer from Oxford to read French and Arabic next year. I had the pleasure of tutoring and getting to know Salimah in the run up to submitting her Personal Statement to UCAS and then again before her interviews at Oxford. We wanted to talk to her to hear how she found the one-to-one tuition we gave her.
Visiting Clapton was a dream; we were greeted by a snazzy visitor sign-in machine which asked us who we were, who we were visiting (Salimah was tickled to see her name on our badges as our ‘host’ for the day), and then took a wonderfully unflattering mugshot of each of us.
Salimah took us to visit the student canteen buzzing with neatly dressed, energetic students tucking into a well deserved lunch after morning lessons. We asked Salimah whether the food was good, and what an enthusiastic response we got. New chef, delicious food, even a breakfast club runs on some days of the week. Pretty impressive.
Cheryl Day, Headteacher of Clapton Girls, certainly lived up to Ofsted’s observation, “The headteacher’s drive and enthusiasm has created a whole-academy ethos of high aspirations and expectations in which students thrive.” We were lucky enough to get to speak to Cheryl and hear this enthusiasm first-hand. This is a school which clearly makes every effort to get to know every student. And there are close to 2,000 of them. Talking to Cheryl, and seeing Salimah and Cheryl chat together, I really got a sense of the genuine caring attitude that permeates life at Clapton.
This doesn’t just stop when the girls leave school. There is an active alumni network and, I am sure she won’t mind me saying, I can imagine Salimah going on to be another figurehead in this network. I have absolutely no doubt that whatever this bright, engaging and bubbly Head Girl goes on to do, she will be able to proudly speak of her school, and I can say for certain that her school will be proud of her. What an amazing effort by Salimah, her parents, her teachers, her mentors, tutors and all other supporters.
As we wandered around the school and walked by some of the classrooms and study rooms (we saw an array of rooms, this wasn’t a case of “let’s show our visitors our best rooms only”), Catherine, our reporter, couldn’t get over how clean the whole place was. “It’s like being in a luxury hotel” she said, “not a thing out of place!”. There was even a trendy ‘focus wall’ in the room we used for our recording, painted a warm navy to contrast with the white walls around it. A blue focus wall is supposed to channel intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm. These words do a pretty effective job of summing up where Clapton is at.
We should keep an eye out for more opportunities and inspiring students to come. Good luck to all the students taking exams this term, especially Salimah, and keep up the amazing work, Clapton!
Today’s recording was broadcast on BBC Radio4’s You&Yours on Monday 4th May 2015. Listen again here from 26.44 mins.