New School 21 in Stratford wants to ‘make a real difference’

Former Labour Party special adviser heads up Newham’s newest school.

One of Stratford’s newest free schools believes that smaller class sizes will be the key to its success.

School 21, which opened in Rokeby Street on Monday, caters for children aged four to 18.

Class sizes will go no higher than 25 in a move which is aimed at giving pupils more personal tutorial time.

Seventy-five children have started at reception level and the same number at Year 7.

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Headteacher Peter Hyman, a former special adviser to ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, has recruited teachers with backgrounds in drama and recruitment.

He said: “What we are offering here is preparing children properly for the challenges of the 21st century.

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“When we ask employers what they want, they want people who are good at problem solving, people who are good at communicating.

“Schools don’t always offer that, but we want to offer them experiences in all kinds of subjects.”

Primary headteacher James Dawson joins following spells at Tollgate and Selwyn primary schools.

He added: “We want to give children a taste of things that they don’t experience in their home lives, like drama, dance and music.”

School 21 appears at a time when the borough’s education is undergoing a revolution.

The London Academy of Excellence has also opened, while Newham Council plans to open a sixth-form college.

Mr Hyman was a strategist for Mr Blair between 1994 and 2003 before leaving to become a teaching assistant at a school in north London.

He rose through the ranks to become deputy head at Greenford High School in Southall, west London.

He added: “I think what I learned from politics is that you need to be clear about your values and really clear about why you are doing things.

“In government you have all the ideas but you are quite distant from the people you are serving. Here, you see the real difference you are making.

“I wanted to set up a school in a place where we could make a real difference.

“There is a real buzz about Newham, not just with the Olympics and Westfield, but it has a lot of interesting people doing exciting things.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to start here – there’s nothing more important than giving children the best possible start in life.”

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