“There are some which have not done as well as expected” - 11 schools fall below key GCSE target
11:16 30 January 2015
Eleven schools across our region could be at risk of government intervention after falling below a key target in the latest GCSE league tables.
However 27 schools saw a rise in the proportion of children achieving the Government’s “gold standard” of five A* to C grades including English and maths.
Sheringham High School
The headteacher of a north Norfolk school said “hard work” was the secret to being among the top 400 schools in the country.
Sheringham High School saw 77pc of its students achieve five or more A* to C grades including English and maths - the highest in the region.
And with the second greatest “value added” score, it shows that children came out of the school having achieved more than first expected.
The academy’s headteacher Andrew Richardson said they had worked hard to deliver a curriculum which both suited their students’ needs while raising aspirations.
He added: “We understand our students usually have higher than national average prior attainment because we have good feeder schools.
“This makes it especially gratifying to have added that much value.”
He said more than half of the children chose to study a humanity subject and a modern foreign language.
“We have some cracking teachers but there is no silver bullet.
“We made sure our core subjects were very solid.”
Dr Richardson said league tables were useful to gauge performance for schools and for parents, but said they did not
The league tables, released yesterday, showed a slight increase in the number of schools failing to achieve the Government’s floor standard of 40% achieving the expected grades.
They risk intervention if pupils also failed to make adequate progress in English and maths.
But while the Norfolk average has fallen by 1.7% to 52.7%, and remains below the national level, the gap has narrowed, with the national average falling by 4% to 56.6%.
This year’s results showed greater volatility than previous years due to changes in the way the tables were drawn, making it harder to compare 2014’s results with 2013.
Some vocational subjects no longer count towards the result, and unlike last year, where a student could attempt an exam several times and their best grade would be considered, this year only a first attempt counted towards the result.
Suffolk saw a fall in the number of students achieving the “gold standard” with the percentage dropping from 54.7% to 51.7%.
Cambridgeshire saw a sharper fall of 5.1% to 55.9% of students in its schools achieve the same standard.
James Joyce, chairman of the Children’s Services Committee at Norfolk County Council, said the county’s climb up the league table rankings, to 119th out of 151 local education authorities in England, was a welcome step of a strategy to raise standards in Norfolk’s schools.
Mixed response for academy trust
An academy trust responsible for several schools across the region has seen a marked difference in results from its schools.
Ormiston Victory Academy, in Costessey, saw its results plunge by 32pc, just scraping the required floor standard with 41pc of its students achieving five A* to C grades.
It was among the top 15 sharpest falls in the country.
But while Ormiston Venture Academy, in Gorleston, saw a double digit fall, the value it added to pupil’s performance was among the highest in the county, showing it helped children who entered the school with initially low attainment.
And Ormiston Denes Academy, near Lowestoft, saw just 28pc of its students achieve the “gold standard” - the lowest in the region.
But a spokesman for Ormiston Academies Trust, said that its schools had re-focused their curriculum to focus on a greater range of academic GCSEs.
He added: “While many schools across the country have seen a marked drop in their GCSE results as we report against the new measures for the first time, we are clear that this year represents a turning point that will be for the benefit of children in the longer term.”
He highlighted reforms which changed the way qualifications were counted, which prevented any qualification counting as more than one GCSE.
He added: “Although there are schools that have seen fantastic improvements this year, there are some which have not done as well as expected.”
But despite the changes in how the tables were made, some schools still saw sharp improvements.
Old Buckenham High School, near Attleborough, saw the proportion of students achieving the “gold standard” climb 18% to 65%, appearing to be among the top 15 schools in the country for improvement.
Cliff Park Ormiston Academy, in Gorleston, saw a 17% rise to 55%, and also had the highest added value in the region.
It means children achieved more than first expected.
Principal Rod Sherington, who saw the school become sponsored by Ormiston Academy Trust in January last year, said he was delighted.
He welcomed the reduction in vocational subjects, and said: “The playing field has become fairer. There needed to be a level playing field to make sure people can’t do something to make the results look artificially high.”
There were 27 schools whose results were better than last year, and 44 who saw the number of students reaching the “gold standard” fall.
Among the regions schools to see a drop were Framlingham College, Wymondham College, King’s Lynn Academy and Wymondham High Academy.
Schools which didn’t meet the floor standard included City Academy in Norwich, which recorded the second lowest in the region, at 29%. But at 5% higher than last year, new principal Mary Sparrow said: “We are proud to be moving in the right direction.”
Schools that fall below the threshold could face action, including being closed down and turned into an academy, or being taken over by a new sponsor.
But teachers’ union NASUWT’s county secretary for Norfolk Colin Collis said the league tables did not give an indication of the success of young people and their teachers.
He added: “There is lots of good teaching going on in schools which are not necessarily top of the league tables. It is easy to draw wrong conclusions about the schools based on exam statistics.”
How did your school fare? Email firstname.lastname@example.org