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Welcome to Rayner’s Lane Comprehensive


With the BoJo Academy now in special measures, interest is focused on a resurgent Rayner’s Lane Comprehensive. TCW’s Education Correspondent reports.

FOR well over half a century Rayner’s Lane Comprehensive has been a blot on the borough’s educational landscape. With a reputation for third-rate teachers, unchecked truancy and misbehaviour, it repeatedly failed to feature in school league tables, simply appearing as a footnote under the heading: ‘I went to a place called . . .’

Yet, slowly and surely, transformation has finally arrived at this much-maligned institution. Many credit the change to the painstaking work of past Headmaster Mr Blair, who has been immediately appointed Chairman of the Board of Governors. Thankfully, he has ‘hit the ground running’ and already set out some radical and exciting proposals.

Many observers have been impressed by the new Headmaster, local boy Mr Starmer, whose father owned the village ironmongery ‘Not the Sharpest Tool in the Box’.

I visited the school recently and was immediately struck by the change accomplished in a short time. While the premises remain unaltered, a huge amount has been achieved in turning tired and unsuitable buildings into more welcoming and useful learning spaces.

The most visible difference is with the decor. Gone is the drab and peeling grey paint on the walls, now replaced with a dazzling rainbow scheme that lifts the spirits as soon as you see it.

Each wing of the school houses a safe space where vulnerable pupils can take time out to reflect and compose themselves. Mr Starmer articulates the importance of this: ‘Look, quite simply many young people feel unable to be completely open, despite the school fostering a holistic and non-confrontational approach to all matters. Four walls can seem intimidating and occasionally lessons can feel frightening. These spaces, or as some call them “isolation rooms”,  allow pupils to reflect on themselves and their actions, something the Local Education Authority wholeheartedly supports.’

It is this type of progressive thinking which has transformed the fortunes of Rayner’s Lane and attracted scores of new pupils, many from outside the Borough, as well as much-admired teachers old and new. To this roster it is particularly gratifying to see the welcome return of the motivational and capable Jacqui Smith alongside veteran lecturers Harriet Harman and Alan Milburn.

Mr Lammy, the talented Head of Geography, is thankfully still in his post, but boys will need to familiarise themselves with the elegant Deputy Head Ms Rayner. Mr Streeting, Head of Built Environment Studies; Ms Reeves, Bursar; Mr Miliband, Head of Climate Studies and Ms Cooper, Head of Citizenship Studies, are just a few in an extraordinarily impressive line-up.

Sadly, Ms Thornberry (aka Lady Nugee), who for many years was a magnificent tutor to the sixth-form law studies group, has not been retained on the permanent staff.

The Library, an unfrequented and dusty backwater groaning with inappropriate texts, has been comprehensively refreshed. Boring and irrelevant works by Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens and Dryden have rightly been jettisoned in favour of far more essential works. I was thrilled to see copies of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and YouKamala Harris: Rooted in Justice, and Black Brother, Black Brother.

My only criticism would be that the archivists need to raise their game. I couldn’t help but notice that Tony Blair’s majestic and uplifting 2011 tome, A Journey, had been mistakenly filed under ‘Fiction’.

The School Hall, (three Portakabins knocked into one) has been refurbished, and Mr Starmer proudly promises that the Dramatic Society’s eagerly anticipated staging of A Night to Remember will be a wonderful production, with both teachers and pupils clamouring to play a part, however small.

While Rayner’s Lane has no tuck shop to speak of, the Headmaster is keen to encourage healthy snacks and drinks. Off the menu are high-caffeine drinks such Nandy’s Nut Job. In their place pupils can choose from wholesome alternatives such as Benn’s Bananas or Kendall’s Krackers.

Finally, several fashion-conscious mothers with boys at the school were eager to know more about the Deputy Head’s eye-catching green trouser suit that she wore at the first PTA meeting. Where could they purchase a copy of this impeccably tailored and immaculately fitting garment? I have done some research and can reveal that the article in question is designed by the enfant terrible of French fashion, Yves Sac-Poubelle, and it is available from Cherie B’s Fashion & Freebies clothing emporium in the High Street.

Like most parents, I will watch with interest to see how this revitalised seat of learning develops over the coming months.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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