I have just finished conducting mock job application interviews in conjunction with my local secondary school, Pool Academy.
My son has attended this school since we moved to Cornwall. We chose Pool both because it was close to where we lived but also because when we visited the school we could see that there was an emerging ethos of excellence in the school despite a less than favourable reputation at the time.
Pool has been evaluated as 'excellent' by ofsted. This is reflected by their results. In 2008, when Jack first attended the school, 34% of the pupils attained 5 A* grades including English and Maths. This has risen to 60% in 2012.
This sound academic base is augmented by strong programmes (such as the one that I helped with today) which encourage students to gain experience in 'real life' situations and to equip them with knowledge and confidence by exposing them to possibly stressful situations before they have to meet them in the job market.
The 'Pool Learning Cluster' (which consists of Pool Academy and many of the primary schools close to Pool Academy that are likely to feed pupils there) are also setting up a Business Links Directory. The idea is to forge stronger links with the local business community with the aim of discovering what local employers need from potential employees and how the Cluster can work towards meeting those needs.
For me these type of activities exemplify what our educationalists can do when they are not constrained by political interference. No doubt Tories will claim this as a victory fot the policy of Academies. Having spoken to the teachers at the sharp end I am convinced it is more a reflection of wanting to do the best possible for pupils despite constant changes and intereference.