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  • Alexandra Park School
    Bidwell Gardens
    London
    N11 2AZ
  • Head: Mr Michael McKenzie
  • T 020 8826 4880
  • F 020 8888 2236
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.alexandrapark.school/
  • A state school for boys and girls aged from 11 to 18.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Haringey
  • Pupils: 1,690; sixth formers: 547
  • Religion: Non-denominational
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted:
    • Latest Overall effectiveness Outstanding 1
      • 16-19 study programmes Outstanding 1
      • Outcomes for children and learners Outstanding 1
      • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment Outstanding 1
      • Effectiveness of leadership and management Outstanding 1
    • 1 Full inspection 16th November 2011
  • Previous Ofsted grade: Good on 3rd May 2007
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report

What says..

Now Haringey’s top choice and hugely over-subscribed. Teachers, generally young and enthusiastic, couldn’t receive higher praise from the kids - ‘The teachers are fantastic,’ said one. ‘Probably some of the best you could find,’ said another. Music is stand-out, with a whopping 15 pupils currently taking the subject at A level and large numbers sitting the GCSE. On a relatively restricted site - ‘My only complaint is that I wish it had...

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What the school says...

Alexandra Park School is a thriving and dynamic comprehensive school which boasts excellent examination results and an outstanding curriculum experience in both the main school and the sixth form. The school is situated on a beautiful five-acre site adjacent to Durnsford Park within sight of Alexandra Palace. Now entering our thirteenth year since opening the school has expanded to meet growing demand for places. In October 2011 we were successful in our application for Academy Status. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headteacher

Since 2008, Michael McKenzie BSc MSc PGCE. Educated at a Birmingham comp, he studied chemistry at Nottingham before qualifying as a teacher at UCL Institute of Education. Worked at various Camden schools (William Ellis, LaSWAP, Parliament Hill), then on to deputy and associate head at Beal High School in Redbridge. Immensely hard working – a 12 hour-a-day man – he no longer teaches (‘There are far better chemists here than I am’), but still manages to know virtually every child by name (clearly evidenced as we walked round).

The son of a cleaner and factory worker, he waxes lyrical about the power of education to transform lives. Says this explains his early adoption of the academy model (‘It allowed us to keep all the things that are special about the school’); no academic edit whatsoever in year 7; and the provision of a wide range of vocational courses. It’s also influenced the decision to increase numbers in sixth form, broadening an intake that had become increasingly socially narrow as the school’s popularity has grown. ‘It’s good to meet another range of kids,’ he says.

Describes his job ironically as ‘picking up litter’ - and does, indeed, tidy up the few stray pieces of paper we encounter – but his main activity is orchestrating and encouraging his well-qualified and enthusiastic staff, keeping them as free as possible from modern education’s tidal wave of ‘initiatives’. ‘There are great teachers here, and my job is to give them the time and space to perform.’ That, of course, and making Alexandra Park a stimulating and happy place. ‘My vision is that the kids love the school as much as I do.’ His efforts are much appreciated by parents. ‘He’ got a vision,’ said one. ‘Uniform, punctuality and professional standards are all high and if a teacher’s not performing, they don’t last.’ Chatty and engaging, he spends off-duty moments cultivating his own garden, a large London patch that would do credit to the Chelsea Flower Show.

Academic matters

In 2019, A level results were a highly creditable 33 per cent A*-A, 67 per cent A*-B, putting Alexandra Park in the top five per cent nationally. The sixth form curriculum is broad, broad, broad, with 33 courses on offer and a range that extends from further maths and Pre-U Mandarin to vocational health and social care and applied business. Economics, English, sociology, and chemistry all achieve notably strong results. Ditto for science and maths – the school’s specialist subjects, both of which are ‘massively popular’ and served by 17 well-qualified teachers, with pupils achieving stellar results and many continuing to Stem subject degrees. All do four subjects in year 12, and –unusually nowadays - more than half carry the fourth on to A level. ‘If not, what do they do with their spare time?’’ asks the head.

At GCSE, the school has always believed in the fundamentals and is rock solid on core subjects, with 72 per cent gaining 9-5 in both English and maths in 2019 and 37 per cent 9-7 grades overall. Maths particularly commendable. ‘The maths is terrific,’ said one parent. The school’s outstanding success in PISA – the Programme for International Student Assessment, which tests 15-year-olds from 75 developed countries in maths, science and reading – is further proof; the cohort who sat the tests from this school topped the world charts.

Most pupils take 10 GCSEs, over 40 per cent take all three sciences. ‘The recent changes to exams have benefited schools like ours that are quite traditional and have never taught to the test,’ says head. But, they’re traditional, too, in their belief in breadth as well as depth, side-stepping the government EBacc benchmark to allow student greater subject choice. ‘English, maths and science are all compulsory, then you do what you enjoy and want to study.’ Other bureaucratic hurdles – such as Progress 8 – have been sailed over (top five per cent nationally), despite the more limited scope for improvement presented by its high-performing intake. ‘It presents a different challenge,’ says head.

This is just one of just 14 founding schools on the Mandarin Excellence Programme, the national project aimed at developing students with near native proficiency, and Mandarin is compulsory for all in year 7 (‘With Mandarin everyone starts on the same level,’ explains head, ‘it’s not down to whether your parents own a gite.’) A second foreign language - either French or Spanish – also compulsory at this stage, and Turkish available at GCSE. Broad range of GCSE options, both academic (classics, music, RS) and vocational (business studies, music BTEC, hospitality and catering).

Strong special needs, with experienced SENCo. Targeted support given in year 7 to those still facing difficulties with maths and English, and parents appreciative that the needs of the struggling middle are well attended to. ‘If you look at the lower and middle end,’ said one father, ‘they get everyone through with good GCSE grades.’ Gifted-and-talented sixth formers are identified by a dedicated member of staff. ‘They’re spotted and pushed forward, whether that’s towards Oxbridge or Imperial,’ says head. High aspirations are aided by the overall atmosphere. ‘It’s a school where it’s cool to be clever,’ said one parent. The school also copes well with specific difficulties (autism and Down’s, for instance), with high praise for help given to those with more profound needs. ‘Everything we were promised has been delivered without the need to chase it,’ says one mother. ‘My son is extremely happy and well supported and communication with his class tutor and other teachers has also been excellent.’ The quality of assistance for those with EAL (about 30 per cent) was clear in a conversation with a year 10 boy, who’d arrived last year with not a word and was now able to joke about his teacher’s Newcastle accent. ‘Everyone here treats you the same,’ he said with the broadest smile, ‘they’re not interested in where you come from.’

Teachers, generally young and enthusiastic, couldn’t receive higher praise from the kids - ‘The teachers are fantastic,’ said one. ‘Probably some of the best you could find,’ said another. ‘They’re always here to help with anything and connect with students rather than just talking to you. They want us to do well for ourselves.’ Parents, too, find most staff are willing to go the extra mile, whether that’s working at weekends, seeking out opportunities for kids to benefit from or listening to parental concerns. ‘When I rang for a cathartic debrief about my daughter, who’d been struggling in the sixth form,’ said one, ‘her teacher gave me an hour of his time and took everything I said on board.’

The school is a National Teaching School, training up debutantes in collaboration with the UCL IOE – ‘I believe that teaching is a profession not a vocation,’ says the head firmly, ‘so we deliver through key partners.’ School works collaboratively with ten local secondary schools, placing the majority of its graduates in local schools. ‘We get access to bright young things, we learn from them, they learn from us and my belief is you never let a good teacher go.’

Games, options, the arts

‘The best thing about the school is the extra-curricular,’ said one sixth former, ‘especially the music.’ Music is indeed stand-out, with a whopping 15 pupils currently taking the subject at A level and large numbers sitting the GCSE (35 the year we visited). A phenomenon the head explains by positive word of mouth. ‘You get a reputation for teaching music and that reputation builds.’ That reputation is rooted in a thoroughly inclusive approach, with music and drama offered in all three terms from the start, and every student expected to study both each week. Plenty of opportunities, too, outside the classroom to learn and perform, with nearly 300 studying an instrument, three choirs, orchestra and jazz band.

Drama is also offered at GCSE and A level and budding thespians are encouraged through participation in annual Shakespeare festival and large-scale productions. Art, too, flourishes – ‘My favourite lesson,’ said one sixth former – with a bright studio, and ample scope to test your range in exam options that include photography, art, textiles, and design technology

Though not a school lavishly endowed with grounds, it makes the most of what it has (sports hall, fully equipped fitness centre, gym and three pitches alongside access to adjacent facilities in Durnsford Park). Wide range of sports on offer including football (boys and girls), rugby (boys and girls), athletics, cricket, basketball, tennis, volleyball, plus, for the less team-game minded, dance and keep fit. A large glass cabinet of shiny silver cups pays testimony to recent triumphs in badminton, table tennis, cricket, and volleyball, and the school won the 2019 Haringey Shield for both genders. Current pupils compete at national level in ice hockey and table tennis. Even so, not all parents are blissful about what’s available. ‘They are handicapped by the facilities, but I wasn’t overly concerned because I felt I could plug that myself elsewhere,’ said one.

A myriad of clubs in lunch hours and after school – Latin, hamster and guinea pig, board games and sign language sit alongside the more mainstream. Over 120 trips a year to enlarge horizons and deepen subject knowledge, including Mandarin exchange to Beijing, social-care work placement in Portugal, classicists (with 100 students at A level and GCSE) off to Pompeii and Athens, annual orchestra tour to Europe. Scientists seem particularly blessed with visits (to CERN), activities (science week, science fair) and investment in tech (a virtual reality suite has recently been added).

Background and atmosphere

Founded originally as a technical college in the 1950s, the school was re-launched as a community comprehensive in 1990, the result of parents lobbying the local authority for a new secondary school. On a relatively restricted site - ‘My only complaint is that I wish it had more outside space,’ said one mother – the school is nonetheless surrounded by the greenery of Muswell Hill Golf Course and adjoining Durnsford Park, and clever remodelling of outdoor areas plus the purchase of some additional land now provide suitable space for lunch, play and hanging out. The inherited mix of pleasant, low-rise brick buildings, some from the 50s, some from the 80s, has been joined by some sleek modern additions, including a sixth form centre with its own cafeteria, and (soon) two new floors on top of the science block. ‘I believe in adding quality,’ says the head, ‘not just reflecting increasing numbers.’

The motto of the school is ‘success for all’, and parents agree about its welcoming multi-cultural atmosphere and inclusiveness. ‘They really try to be there for everybody,’ said one. Its success, academic and otherwise, is attested by the multitude of awards and accolades that plaster the website and school halls.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

A calm and orderly place where a tight, but never strangling, rein is kept on behaviour. ‘Students need firm boundaries and it’s important for the school to set them,’ says the head. ‘We expect them to be at school on time, in uniform, ready to work’. An approach appreciated by parents (‘The head’s very good on discipline,’ said one), and on our tour of the school - where classroom doors are left open during lessons – only industrious attention was observable.

The rate of exclusions, permanent and fixed, is well below the national average - but, as the head explains, ‘We use the full range of sanctions before we get to that position. We have a list of no’s, and the pupils know what these are.’ So, no jewellery, no fake nails, no dyed hair or make up in the lower school (‘We want them to stay young as long as possible’) and no mobile phones on site (‘If we see them, we confiscate them - we want them to talk to each other at playtime, not text each other’). Repeat offenders of any sort are sent to The Bridge, a fully staffed, self-contained unit providing interventions for those ‘who present challenges in class’. ‘Where there are problems they are dealt with roundly and fairly,’ thought a parent. Black and red uniform pre-GCSE is generally neatly worn, as is sixth former ‘uniform’ of North London casual. Pupils are friendly (‘Hello, sir,’ was heard repeatedly) and polite. One girl rushing to a lesson, for example, stopped to dig out her door pass from her bag to let me through. Drugs not a notable issue. Weapons, too, have fortunately been a rarity. Year 7 has its own ‘transition managers’ and pupils remain in the same tutor groups for five years with a director of studies for each year, learning mentors and counsellors.

Communication between parents and school unusually strong - ‘All my emails, however trivial, get answered promptly,’ said one. Positive reinforcement delivered through phone calls or postcards plus a commendation system of silver, bronze and gold awards. Slacking is also carefully tracked. ‘They’re very good at being on their case, and if they’re falling behind they’re immediately onto the parents.’

Pupils and parents

The school started life with an intake that stretched far into the more impoverished reaches of the borough, but its increasing popularity has meant that pre-GCSE, families are largely middle-class professionals inhabiting the broad streets and roomy period houses that encircle the gates. The large intake at sixth form introduces a broader mix - ‘It’s very positive, and makes pupils more aware and street smart,’ said one father. Parents throughout hugely supportive, and the active PTA runs endless fund-raising events and are closely involved in the day-to-day running of the school. Pupils are industrious and articulate – and most very much enjoy their time here. ‘My children have all enjoyed school and have made great friends,’ said a mother of three.

Entrance

Now Haringey’s top choice and hugely over-subscribed (1847 applied for 232 year 7 places in 2019). Those outside the usual prioritised categories (children in care, siblings, etc), will need to live well within half a mile (0.4 in 2019) to be in with a realistic chance. The school expands in the sixth form, with about 150 new arrivals bringing numbers overall to 550 overall. Those applying to study A levels require at least five GCSES at grades 9-5, with 5 or 6s in their chosen subjects.

Exit

Just about every student that could be successful at sixth form stays on, between 10-20 per cent leave post GCSE for alternative courses at colleges. Virtually all sixth formers proceed to university, about 50 per cent to Russell Group. Six to Oxbridge in 2019 and five to medicine or dentistry. Other popular destinations include UCL, Exeter, Leeds, Bristol, Warwick, Manchester, Queen Mary’s and King’s College London, with talented musicians often proceeding to conservatoires. Good advice given, too, for those interested in apprenticeships.

Money matters

A school that seems to be particularly good at tapping into broader resources, with teacher-led initiatives accessing funds from the Erasmus scheme and elsewhere. Training School and Academy trust status bring in additional money and generous parents contribute to the hardship fund and facilities such as the virtual reality suite.

Our view

One of London’s top performing non-selective, non-faith comprehensives, with excellent results for all, delivered through inspiring teaching, firm boundaries and positive and supportive intervention.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

The school provides support for a large number of children with Statements of Special Educational Needs as well as students on the Special Needs register. We support students with a wide range of need including ASD; Speech, Language and Communication; Down's Syndrome; SpLD; and general learning difficulties. Certain members of the department have particular qualifications and experience in speech and language impairment. The departmental team consists of teachers, learning mentors and a large number of teaching assistants. In addition, we have specialist TAs with responsibility for literacy, numeracy and year 7 transition, whose work is co-ordinated by a lead teaching assistant. Students are assessed on entry to school and, using this baseline data, may be allocated additional support with literacy and numeracy, on a withdrawal basis. This support is in addition to the in-class support provided by TAs and learning mentors. All statemented students have a key teacher and TA who are both responsible for giving support to students and parents, liaising with other teaching staff, and meeting with parents.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty Y
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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Interpreting catchment maps

The maps show in colour where the pupils at a school came from*. Red = most pupils to Blue = fewest.

Where the map is not coloured we have no record in the previous three years of any pupils being admitted from that location based on the options chosen.

For help and explanation of our catchment maps see: Catchment maps explained

Further reading

If there are more applicants to a school than it has places for, who gets in is determined by which applicants best fulfil the admissions criteria.

Admissions criteria are often complicated, and may change from year to year. The best source of information is usually the relevant local authority website, but once you have set your sights on a school it is a good idea to ask them how they see things panning out for the year that you are interested in.

Many schools admit children based on distance from the school or a fixed catchment area. For such schools, the cut-off distance will vary from year to year, especially if the school give priority to siblings, and the pattern will be of a central core with outliers (who will mostly be siblings). Schools that admit on the basis of academic or religious selection will have a much more scattered pattern.

*The coloured areas outlined in black are Census Output Areas. These are made up of a group of neighbouring postcodes, which accounts for their odd shapes. These provide an indication, but not a precise map, of the school’s catchment: always refer to local authority and school websites for precise information.

The 'hotter' the colour the more children have been admitted.

Children get into the school from here:

regularly
most years
quite often
infrequently
sometimes, but not in this year

Who came from where


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