Stockwell is one of the most deprived areas of London, so it’s not somewhere you readily associate with educational excellence and pioneering entrepreneurialism. But Greg Martin, director of the Durand Academy and the Durand Education Trust, has transformed a cavernous Victorian building off the Clapham Road into a self-financing, high-performing primary school. Now he’s converting an old mansion in West Sussex into a secondary boarding school so he can take his pupils, most of whom are from just two poverty-stricken estates in Stockwell, ‘from the cradle to a job’.
There has been a school on the London site since 1886, and Martin started working there in 1986, becoming headteacher of the primary school in 1988. After the Inner London Education Authority was abolished in 1990, he decided the school had to generate its own money, and some of the site’s unused space was used to build a swimming pool and football pitch. This self-reliant approach is fundamental to the school’s ethos: ‘One of the basic principles of our education here is captured in what we say to the kids: “Yes, there’s a safety net. But we want to teach you to look after yourselves.”’
The swimming pool and football pitch were made available to the paying public after school hours, and together they pulled in around £40,000 per year. Martin recognised the potential for scalability in that model, and with new offices, accommodation and a sports centre, the site now brings in £350-400,000 a year.
But the problem with giving Stockwell’s children an exceptionally good primary education is that it’s not continued by the state secondary schools in the area. In 2011, 57 per cent of Durand’s eleven-year-olds achieved grades equivalent to the typical thirteen-year-old in maths, and 34 per cent in English. But children leaving the Academy at eleven, says Martin, ‘are failing, and their potential is being lost in the system’.
That’s why, in 2010, he set up the Durand Education Trust to finance a secondary education for his pupils. Progress has been rapid: a middle school opens in September and the West Sussex mansion will be a boarding school for 600 thirteen- to eighteen-year olds by September 2014. Pupils will get the support and benefits of a Durand education for their entire school lives — and their parents won’t have to pay a penny for it.
Spear’s readers can play a part in this remarkable project: ‘It is absolutely important that the people who have got the businesses, got the wealth, and who are going to grow wealthy in the future, tell us about the kind of workforce they need, and work with us. We are looking for a proper partnership — not just a case of people chucking loads of money at this project and feeling OK about themselves, but actually being able to say, “I made a difference.”’
How You Can Help
Entrepreneurs and business experts can give talks, encouraging students with advice on careers or becoming an entrepreneur.
Pupil sponsorship is an option: sponsored children write to their benefactor and invite them to school events, and the sponsor can act as a mentor if they choose. Sponsorship at the secondary boarding school is £19,000 for five years or £3,800 per year.