Evaluation of Institution of Education

IOE – Newham Additional Provision (NAP)

The following are evaluative sections from the Institute of Education’s (IOE) report into Newham Alternative Provision ((NAP), written by Brian Creese and published 2012:

Peacock Gym in Canning Town, east London, was founded in 1973 when its owners Martin and Tony Bowers were still teenagers. The gym is now home to professional and amateur boxers of all ages and levels (up to and including world champions), it is also a local community gym and includes a cafe for the local population. Peacock Gym Academy has grown out of this sporting centre of excellence and now offers a wide variety of vocational courses. Peacock Gym Academy is both larger than the other APs featured in this report, and far more rooted in the local community.

Since the set up of Newham Additional provision 7 years ago, it has expanded and now includes the Peacock Gym Academy.The Peacock Gym Academy, takes young people for more than the single day a week facilitated through NAP. This extended provision is entirely personalised, but in some cases may mean that students attend the alternative provider up to 5 days a week. This option is generally taken only when a student is in danger of imminent permanent exclusion.

A comparison of attendance at NAP compared with attendance at mainstream school is an important indicator of the NAP’s success. With some young people involved in extended provision that comparison can be startling, as in the case of one young person who failed to attend school at all the previous year, but is now attending Peacock three days a week with few unauthorised absences.

Often qualifications gained at Peacock are the only ones a young person gains before leaving school, while in other cases they make a significant contribution to their overall collection of qualifications and may bring them up to the Further Education requirement of 5 A*-C GCSE’s. In some cases the vocational qualifications gained through NAP may actually lead to NAP students being ahead of their peers if they go on to take vocational subjects at college.

Anecdotally, an increase in confidence is reported as a significant factor for many young people attending NAP. However, it remains difficult to reliably capture objective measures of growth in confidence or maturity. All the providers create case studies, andsome evidence can be gained from student attitudinal surveys, such as the one conducted by Peacock (See Appendix A).

Some of the young people who participate in NAP come from very challenging family backgrounds; attending NAP every week keeps them engaged with education and the wider systems. Many of the young people themselves are very clear that without Peacock they would already be in a Young Offender Institution and looking forward to a future revolving round regular spells in custody. In general it does appear that remaining engaged with education through analternate provision does help keep a young person out of the custodial sector. This is the reason why Inspector Declan Kinsella said in the early days that “What every community needs is a Peacock Gym on its doorstep”[1].

Peacock is largely defined through an ethos and a belief in ‘experiential teaching’. Peacock does offer a wide range of vocational subjects, but its unique approach is based in its location, values and approach. Since Peacock is not centered on a specific vocational area, it is able to offer a wide range of subjects. These include Construction skills, Hair & beauty, Bicycle repair and maintenance, Horticulture, Sports leadership, Fashion and retail and Performance arts.  However, Peacock combines these vocational learning areas with other topics, which they consider equally essential. Circle time is a daily PSHCE (personal, social, health, citizenship education) time and helps build the sense of community. Circle time is a very important element of the day for both staff and students, and a key to breaking down barriers.There is a student voice at Peacock with three young people, who are peer mentors, sitting on the academy council which meets every morning at 8.30.

Diet and exercise is similarly part of the ethos. Peacock considers that every young person is entitled to a healthy lunch as part of the every child matters agenda. However Peacock recognise that young people sitting with adults is an informal learning environment as they are learning manners, social behaviour and how to talk appropriately to staff and adults. Young people see adults talking to each other, shaking their hand, and helping to model the correct way of behaving. Shaking hands is purposely advocated as the correct greeting between all adults[2].

Exercise is another core value. Every student is invited to take part in physical activity every morning.

The Boxing Coach

I run the amateur boxing side at Peacock gym. I’m here every night, I don’t get paid. I have done it all my life. I boxed for England, was a professional and then had a bad accident and done this ever since. I love it. I think the academy is a big part of it all. Everyone is friendly every one works together. So many local people have come here. We don’t have a postcode problem here. Some kids wouldn’t travel out to places. We have attendance of 82% far higher than most special schools. The brand here is bigger than postcode, bigger than any gang. We had a school from Tower Hamlets last year, we have international students… It is not a problem. They love the identity of the Peacock T-shirts – which they have to earn and cannot buy. It can be tough getting the T-shirt and they appreciate it, feel they have earned it. The celebration events are really important. And some of these kids have never got anything before. Parents come down and tell us how the kids have changed. If you have 150 kids like this you are actually working with 150 families…


Peacock aims to equip the young people with a range of important life-skills  providing young people with opportunities to take on responsibilities and prepare them for the world of work. Peacock offers students contracts for work, such as: cleaning, taking charge of the plants and fitness training with other students. Students have to bid for this work, agree a price, terms and conditions and be formally interviewed before being awarded the contract. Programmes like Cycle mechanics, and TV production are enterprise projects. The Hair & Beauty salon has clients, and the cycling group refurbish bikes for re-sale. Peacock aims to offer vocational skills, social and behavioural support and business and life skills. Even those young people who attend Peacock five days a week remain on the school role.

It was clear that many students are overwhelmed by the experience of attending Peacock. Young people who had very poor attendance at school spend long hours at Peacock, arriving early, staying into the evenings and even attending during holidays and at weekends. The Peacock, both the gym and the academy, have become a central core to their often-chaotic lives.

The students spoken to were aware of the distance they and their peers had travelled. There was banter about the physical fitness and mental attitudes of others in the group when they had first attended Peacock. One fit young boxer was described as looking like ‘a pudding’ when he first arrived and another explained how she was headed for a YOI until finding herself at Peacock.

Although students appreciated the vocational course, the sport and fitness aspects of Peacock and the ability to gain qualifications, it was the relationships with staff, teachers, coaches and other support workers, which was the key factor. Many who lacked role models at home or school have found individuals who they can look up to and model themselves on. This seemed to be the key element for the students. Almost all reported that they expected to enter the criminal justice system and one had already done time at a YOI. All were clear that Peacock had changed that path for them.

Gaining qualifications is an important part of the Peacock mix. In 2010-11 the 59 young people attending Peacock gained 99 qualifications[3]. Many of those young people will have gained other qualifications through school and in some cases qualifications gained at Peacock have contributed to students gaining 5 A*-C GCSEs. In other cases, qualifications from Peacock are the only ones a young person may have gained by the age of 16

Peacock staff considers that the single greatest impact on young people who go to Peacock is that they re-engage with education. Many Peacock students arrive with a very poor record of attendance, something that is generally turned round while the young people are at Peacock. The young people themselves attest to their own and their peers change; there may be any number of triggers for this, the vocational subjects, the sport, the atmosphere or the maturity which the centre engenders. Peacock is also able to offer flexible and highly individualised packages. One student currently attending did not attend school at all last year. At Peacock they have set him an initial three day a week target for this year, which he has achieved and from which he can build up to full time.

The Intern

My volunteering at Peacock Academy’s TV Project came about through working as an intern at Newham Borough Council. Throughout my time at Peacock Gym Academy my role has been to assist the Technology Tutor, who is a professional film maker and comedian, with the general running of the class and also with the set up of the kit. Since the start of the TV project I have observed a significant increase in the students’ confidence in their ability, both with the use of equipment and in their performance skills. Furthermore, during the sessions there has     been a noticeable increase in the students’ willingness to express their own ideas, offering suggestions for the content of the material, as well as making increasingly mature judgements regarding their own and peers’ performances to identify areas for improvement. This confidence is also reflected in wider areas of their education – across other curriculum areas at the Peacock Gym Academy and back at school.

Rachel Davey, Brunel University

Peacock believes that physical activity, which has to fight for time in the schools sector, is an important factor for this cohort. Peacock provide 2 hours a day doing sport, and this has a real impact on the young people. Staff report seeing a clear difference when competing with other organisations; Peacock students eat better, go to bed earlier and enjoy more exercise.

Peacock look to capture success in a range of different ways. They collect data on qualifications, and look at attendance as a key indicator of success. They create case studies, ask for diaries of work and do regular surveys of students. Overall, however, it is through sessions such as Circle Time that Peacock staff get know every student and strive constantly to monitor their progress and development.

It is impossible to separate the Peacock ethos from their perceived stakeholders. The Peacock Gym Academy sees itself as being at the centre of a series of partnerships: with the students, their parents, the schools and PRUs from which they come, Newham Council, the wider local community, staff at the Gym (both working in the Academy and in the gym and cafe) the Metropolitan Police and working with the Peacock Gym charity.

Peacock have attempted to capture the elements that make up their specific ethos, involving the importance of an adult community and role models, the vocational nature of education, the learner voice and responsibility and pastoral support. It looks at two progression routes: progression into work or progression into further education and training.

Using tools such as the one above, Peacock aim to give all the young people who come to them a sense of worthiness. Most students arrive with an ingrained negative attitude towards the adult world in general and education in particular; students have spent their lives being told that they can’t do something, or that they are not good enough. Peacock consider that it is through learning self worthiness and self esteem that they start to mature and become able to deal with different people.

Peacock are keen to look to a future working more formally with a group of schools to help young people who are struggling in mainstream. Schools do recognise that it is to their benefit to have no exclusions and Peacock can help schools to do that. Peacock has recently been accepted onto the Free Schools Programme run by the New Schools Network with a view to becoming an alternative provision Free School opening in September 2015.

School Case Study 1

For these individuals, going to Peacock the stress and strain is taken off. For instance, they don’t have to wear uniform. Of the five in our school who are on extended provision at Peacock, with four of them the reason they are not performing is their family background. With one girl, her father has recently died, her mother is terminally ill and school is the last thing on her mind; frankly she has missed so much she is never going to catch up…..so we came up with a plan – which was for her to go to Peacock and do Hair & Beauty. Her attendance is not perfect, but far better than what she was doing here and she is enjoying her course and should achieve. In honesty, Peacock is the only good thing happening to her at present.


School case Study 2

The school had a pupil who was excluded for constant truanting; he seemed to never be there. Actually he was at school, but never arrived in time for registration because he was having to take his younger sister to school and was an unrecognised carer. The pupil was very concerned that if he let the school know the full facts, the teachers would inform social services and they may decide to take his sisters away from home. His story only became clear after attending Peacock and his gaining the trust of the staff there. However much school does, there will always be a need for places like Peacock and the other alternative providers who can engage on a much more individual level.

The key to sustainability is the buy-in of schools,ensuring schools maintain their link with APs and recognising that the best approach for some young people lies outside of mainstream school. But without the likes of Peacock, Newham schools would have a lot more students failing to engage and dropping out.

Although Peacock does not centre on a single vocational area, the disciplines of the workplace are just as essential an element of their approach.

At Peacock it could be said that interaction with adults is the key element of their ethos; behaving in an adult manner in the cafe, gym and classrooms is one of the central tenants of the Academy.


1.   Appendix A


Peacock Student Questionnaire

Peacock Gym Academy conducted a survey of their students at regular intervals as part of their continuous process of evaluation and improvement. These are the results of the Spring 2012 survey.

Peacock Gym Academy Student Questionnaire June 2012 (39 returns)
Gender Days at The Academy

































Favourite Activity
Hair and Beauty


Gym Fitness




Powerleague Football


Cycle Mechanics






Sport and Active Leisure


Quality of Provision Excellent Good Average Poor
Quality of teaching





Quality of care





Quality of relationships with staff





Quality of learning environment





Impact of Provision   A lot of change   Some change    No change 
Shake hands




More sociable




Feel more confident about learning




Able to concentrate more




More motivated about future




More helpful at home





Peacock Gym Academy was the runner up in the 2012 Times (TES) National Teaching Awards ‘Outstanding Sporting Initiative or Partnership’ and shortlisted for three other national awards for Autumn 2012.  They have also been accepted onto the Free Schools Development Programme as one of the six ‘most promising’ AP Free School Groups

However, given that one of the keys to successful alternative provision is the personalisation that comes from very small provision, it is clear that an AP such as Peacock cannot simply continue to expand to meet the demand for its services. Therefore, the management of Peacock are interested to identify the features of the Peacock Gym Academy that make it a success, and examine the potential for exporting the Peacock model to other locations, either within Newham or further afield.


Successful features of Peacock Gym Academy

Interviews with a wide range of stakeholders including Peacock teachers, managers, gym staff and coaches, local councillors, students and interns have provided a very full picture of the Peacock ethos. There is a high degree of agreement of the features that contribute to the successful way that Peacock are able to engage with young people and bring them back into the world of education, employment and training.

Adult role models

Many of the young people who attend Peacock have very poor adult role models. This is particularly so for many of the boys who lack positive male role models. Many come from worlds without two parents, where parents do not work, where parents may not even look after themselves very successfully. They lack aspiration because they see no aspiration around them, and they lack a sense of their own worthiness, because no one – at home or at school – has ever suggested they are worth very much at all.

At Peacock, students spend time not just with the education staff but with a whole range of adults – coaches, adult straining at the gym, professional boxers, members of the wider community and so on. One part time tutor is an ex champion cyclist and also a former professional boxer. At 59, well past an athlete’s retirement age, yet boxes and trains regularly with the group as well as holding cycle maintenance classes. He is seen by very many young people as a hero figure whom they all look up to. One young person interviewed straightforwardly stated that it was his personality that has kept her out of prison – and she will be representing London in a boxing tournament in India in November 2012. The presence of top professional boxers is impossible to avoid. These men who have no formal connection with the Academy nonetheless take the time to talk to and encourage the young people, who respond with enthusiasm and determination. For others it is the female teachers in Hairdressing, the comedian who works the TV course or the chess-playing teacher. It is not so much that there is one role model but a whole range of positive, dedicated people who show the young people that aspirations are for them and that they are worthwhile people in their own right.

Vocational and experiential syllabus

There is a fine line between having a variety of vocational subjects on offer, and spreading yourself too thinly, a line which Peacock is perhaps close to. By having a range of vocational areas, Peacock opens itself to a wider range of young people. The subjects for study include traditional vocational areas such as mechanics or building, the specific focus of the location with sports management to the fore and also a wide sweep of the creative arts. While not every young person who goes to Peacock finds the right subject, there is enough variety for most to find an area to engage with. Peacock is multidimensional, however, so basic skills (English and mathematics) are embedded in the vocational areas and the daily Circle time is a key feature for everyone, providing an opportunity for group discussion and reflection of common problems and concerns.

Highly personalised programmes

Despite the rhetoric of much of education, Peacock really do treat their students as individuals and do give them highly personalised programmes. Sessions consist of quite large groups of young people who have or were about to be excluded for violence, swearing, non-attendance, aggressive behaviour and so on. Peacock staff quickly get to know every student and monitor their progress at all times. They are not forced to treat everyone the same – the young person who failed to attend school at all for a year is not expected to suddenly attend Peacock five days a week; they are able to set graded targets for his re-engagement with education.

Emphasis on fitness and exercise

The most obvious unique feature of Peacock is the boxing gym that it exists within. Students are expected to start the day with vigorous exercise – boxing, boxing fitness, running etc – and they may well engage in more than one session of exercise each day. Although not forced, that exercise and fitness are the normative state, both of peers and role models quickly has an effect on the young people.  There are many proven advantages for young people in engaging with exercise, including improved appetite, sleep patterns and stress. Interviews constantly referred to students growing physically over their time at Peacock, and again this was a feature of conversation with the young people themselves.  The healthy eating policy links into this; all students are provided with a token for lunch, which is provided in the cafe on the premises and which only provides ‘healthy’ options – pasta and salad rather than burgers and chips. Teachers spoke of the clear physical differences between peacock students and those from mainstream schools during sporting engagements.

Culture of enterprise

Peacock runs with a great deal of voluntary help and there are services which it would not be economic to source from private businesses. Peacock have turned this to their advantage by offering contracts for services to the students themselves. So the young people can bid for cleaning, or horticultural work in the building, winning both the gains (small payments) and responsibilities for working for themselves. Many of the courses lead to entrepreneurial activities; the bicycles, once repaired in classes, are then sold at markets, hair and beauty have real clients and the TV team aim to sell their services and programmes.

Rooted in the community

Clearly Peacock students gain a great deal by being part of the local community. However, students are also encouraged to give something back. Despite being a charity and operating in a hand-to-mouth basis, they raise tens of thousands of pounds for other charities. Projects include sponsored cycle rides, golfing and other sports events, provide volunteers for local ecological projects and host of other local events. The students at Peacock are constantly encouraged to work for those less fortunate than themselves and to give something bck to the community. Students who arrive feeling they have nothing to give and nothing to be proud of are quickly integrated into a culture that sees giving of their time and self as part of their duty towards society.


Model to replicate The Peacock Gym Academy

The above factors which create such a special environment for young people at Peacock essentially distil to two: an existing community centre and extraordinarily dedicated adults – both teaching a peripheral.

Peacock Gym is not a new organisation but has been in the area for two decades. It has a role, a position and an amount of kudos with the local community. It would be very difficult to create Peacock Gym from scratch. Therefore any replication of Peacock would need to be based in an organisation with existing roots in the community, which is open to and frequently used by adults from the local community. Potential organisations might include existing arts or community centres, sports clubs and societies, acting or dance schools, community broadcasting centres or even outreach centres for FE Colleges.

Staffing will, to some extent, follow the choice of centre. It is not easy to find inspirational people to work in a new venture, but if that venture has sufficient aspiration and support it is possible.

Given these two essential features in place, there seems no reason why a similar and equally effective model cannot be built.



[1]A view endorsed by another former Metropolitan police inspector, Fred Cutts.

[2] It is for this reason that the student survey includes a question about shaking hands.

[3] 26 gained BTEC Level 2 Work Skills, 11 BTEC Level 1 Sport and Active leisure, 11 City & Guilds Level 1 Building studies, 10 Introduction to Hair and Beauty BTEC Level 1, 10 Skills for Life literacy level 1, 10 Skills for Life Numeracy Level 1, 9 City & Guilds Level 1 Horticulture, 8 Open College Network Soccer Coaching Level 2 and 4 BTEC Level 1 Performance Arts.