A head teacher whose boys’ school is the most improved in London after securing admirable GCSE results last summer has put its success down to getting pupils to believe in themselves again.

John Hernandez took over Norlington School for Boys in Norlington Road, Leyton, in the summer of 2010, when less than half of the pupils were achieving A* to C grades in five or more GCSEs including English and Maths – used as a measuring stick for school success.

But after a “huge transformation”, 64 per cent of pupils reached that benchmark, compared to 49 per cent in 2011 when the school was rated satisfactory by Ofsted.

The dramatic rise in results was above the borough average of 52.6 per cent and the national average of 59 per cent, and means Norlington is the most improved London boys’ school, a feat confirmed by the government last week when it released its official data.

Mr Hernandez said: “We’re really pleased. Considering where we were three or four years ago when we were struggling, there’s been a huge transformation.

“It was a case of getting them to believe in themselves. It’s about self-belief that you’re able to do something. Then we made them do it.”

The maths teacher added that the schools’ best ever marks came about by making the school a place where pupils felt comfortable and safe.

He said: “There’s massive support structures in place for the children. They feel safe and looked after with us. It’s a family school, they’re looked after here as part of a family.”

One result of this, he continued, is that behaviour has improved.

The number of excluded pupils has plummeted from 200 in 2010 to 19 last year. So far this school year there have only been three exclusions.

Mr Hernandez said: “Now teachers are challenging them more and pupils want to learn. We’ve found that there’s no disparity between free school meals and non-free school meals children.

“That’s very unusual.”

Some Norlington teenagers are now getting scholarships to public school sixth forms where they hope to get the grades for their chosen university.

Mr Hernandez said: “I hope we can continue our work here. It’s a fantastic place to be a head and I’ve never enjoyed a job more.”