Case study: Lilian Baylis becomes a technology specialist school
Lilian Baylis school in Lambeth, a disadvantaged area of south London, achieved "specialist school status" in technology this year.
The turnaround is remarkable - in 2002, just six per cent of students achieved more than five GCSEs at grades 'C' and above. That figure has now risen to 35 per cent.
Three years ago there was a national competition for schools run by the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists (WCIT) – a livery company made up of some of the highest-ranking IT professionals in London.
Livery companies originated before 1066 and were formed by groups of people involved in the same profession. The WCIT is one of the newer companies, which started in 1992 to give a helping hand here and there.
Gary Phillips, head teacher for Lilian Baylis, said: "We were one of the lucky ones. They helped us to raise £50,000 in sponsorship to become a specialist school - a government requirement. They contributed for IT funding. That paid for electronic whiteboards and laptops for the teachers. Now we are trying to get a laptop library for students."
The school set the goal of raising performance levels to exceed the London average and focus on technology. To do this, the WCIT brought in Cisco Systems, which agreed to supply high-powered routers, with services firm Connectix providing infrastructure upgrades. Cisco now offers students its training courses too.
The WCIT has organised talks for students by inspirational businessmen, such as EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou. It organises work placements at banks, law firms and high-profile companies, including Accenture and IBM - opportunities which would not normally be available to students at Lilian Baylis.
It also holds annual career fairs for students, which are now supported by the likes of Lloyds TSB, Microsoft and the Ministry of Defence.
Phillips added: "[It has] raised aspirations – they helped us with IBM, Accenture and AMD. Through that we were able to get work placements in the real world instead of shelf stacking.
"It gave the school a great level of confidence. They [the WCIT] weren't the saviours but they contributed to it. In only a short time Lilian Baylis has established an enviable level of credibility with its existing and prospective partners."