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Petchey Academy Shows the Way

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19 Jun 2008

Hackney Gazette

The 14th May saw the official opening of the incredible new Petchey Academy on Shacklewell Lane. Huge glass walls cover the exterior of the building, reflecting light and creating a striking image. The building has been designed by renowned architects to look open and welcoming but also to be a stylish addition to Shacklewell Lane. It certainly catches my eye.

I was also caught by the range of facilities at the school. As well as the bright, modern classrooms there is a training restaurant, a dance studio and a roof-top terrace. The facilities for music and sports are also top class. The school has a special and distinctive focus on healthy eating. A Food Manager takes care of all food-related activities in the school – from school meals, to the training restaurant and the food technology classes. This holistic approach means students are able to appreciate all aspects of health and food.

And the healthy eating ethos is just one part of the school’s commitment to its Healthcare and Medical Sciences specialist status. The school has also made close links to other places of learning specialising in health and medicine like London University, Centre of the Cell, University of East London and ECO Active. Students will be able to learn about what their education after school might look like through the connection with these institutions.

Although the Academy opened its doors back in September last year, the school decided to wait until May to hold the official opening. This has given the school a chance to really take off, and importantly for the first Ofsted inspection to take place. The inspection was successful and the school was praised for its approach to learning and teaching. Students were praised for being well-behaved and focused.

The Petchey Academy is supported by the Jack Petchey Foundation. The Foundation was set up in 1999 with the specific aim of aiding young people aged 11 – 19 year olds. Since its birth the Foundation has distributed £35 million to various organisations and schools. Programmes run by the Foundation include the “Speak Out” campaign which provides public speaking training for young people, and the “Step into Dance” programme which encourages young people to take dancing lessons. The focus on education has provided study programmes over the summer and out-of-school learning during term times. All important provisions for those young people who are struggling with their studying. Extra lessons for young people who might have lost interest in school are an excellent way of re-engaging pupils and raising the achievement levels of those left behind.

All in all the Foundation does a lot of good work in East London and the surrounding areas. This is in no small way thanks to Jack Petchey himself who has taken a real interest in improving the lives of young people in London and Essex. A recent Sunday Times Rich List found Mr Petchey to be among the top ten donators to young people and educational causes in this country. Mr Petchey’s generosity is no surprise when you learn that he was born and brought up in the East End of London himself. In fact he started from very humble roots but grew up to be an extremely successful businessman. Years later he has committed himself to helping young people living in the same area.  

I think the Petchey Academy is an outstanding symbol of the way education in Hackney is improving. Schools in Hackney are now leading the way nationally. Hackney is the place to be for innovative, inspiring and integrative education and that is something we can all be proud of.

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