A CATFORD primary school which was once in special measures has celebrated the best test results in the borough - while Lewisham came out fifth best in the country.

Rathfern headteacher Naheeda Maharasingam joined the school in 2007 when "absolutely appalling" Key Stage 2 results saw less than half the children hitting targets.

But this year, 96 per cent achieved the expected level four mark, with more than 40 per cent getting level five - the best in the borough.

Ms Maharasingam said of when she joined: "It's quite complex, but essentially there were very low expectations and a culture of blame

"There was very much a feeling that it was because the community was a certain way.

"I came from that kind of community so was really insistent that, just because you're from a particular social class, expectations shouldn't be any different."

She added: "It's a class war here. I will not allow excuses for failure based on the fact that our children come from certain families and therefore can't achieve."

Over six years, the school's culture has changed, with "a zero tolerance to low expectations", a focus on teaching children how to be self-motivated, along with cracking down on key skills like grammar.

Most of the original staff have gone and so have the old Saturday classes, which are no longer needed to fill the gaps.

Ms Maharasingam said: "It's been a long struggle.I don't believe there's a quick fix. I do believe it's a team effort and my leadership team are very committed to social change.

"You can't work at Rathfern if you don't want to change the world for the children. It's not a day job."

Hitting level four at Key Stage 2 is seen as an indicator of future school success, and Ms Maharasingam said she was confident her pupils were set up with the skills for secondary education.

Rathfern's improvement has been echoed across the borough, with 82 per cent of pupils reaching level 4 or above - compared to 76 per cent nationally.

In London, it means Lewisham is only behind Richmond upon Thames and Kensington and Chelsea.

Lewisham Council cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Helen Klier,said: “I want to congratulate our children for their fantastic results. I am very proud to say that they are right among the very best in the country.

"They offer another demonstration of the outstanding work done by school leaders, teachers and support staff in Lewisham’s primary schools.”