School League Tables 2012: 107 Secondaries Fail To Meet Government Targets

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Thousands of schools are failing their pupils, according to school league tables
Thousands of schools are failing their pupils, according to school league tables

Thousands of teenagers are being let down by under-performing schools, despite tough government targets introduced to raise standards, new league tables have revealed.

More than 100 secondaries in England did not meet the targets while young people are still failing to get good GCSE results.

Ministers took a tougher stance toward education institutions in 2010, saying schools failing to meet the strict thresholds face closure or being taken over if they do not improve.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb commented on the tables, saying: "We should have high expectations for all children regardless of their circumstances. Today's figures reveal a shocking waste of talent in many schools across the country.

The tables show 107 secondary schools were below the Government's target in 2011.

This means that less than 35% of their pupils got at least five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths, and fewer youngsters made two levels of progress between 11 and 16 than the national average in these two core subjects.

The tables also suggest hundreds of secondaries are failing their poorest pupils.

A mere third (33.9%) of teenagers from disadvantaged homes gained at least five Cs in their GCSEs last summer, including English and maths, compared to 58.2% of all pupils attending state schools.

And while nearly one in six pupils nationally achieved the Government's new English Baccalaureate, the same was true for only one in 25 poor youngsters, the Department for Education (DfE) admitted.

To gain the EBacc, pupils must score at least a C in English, maths, science, history or geography and a language at GCSE.

Gibb added: "All too often, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds aren't given the same opportunities as their peers. But there are great examples of schools achieving the best for their disadvantaged pupils. If they can get it right, then so can all schools."

The minister insisted the introduction of the controversial Ebacc "opened up opportunities for all pupils". The Ebacc was introduced in late 2010 to encourage students to study the "core academic subjects employers and universities demand". Concerns have recently been raised by employers over the maths and English skills of school leavers, something which the government hopes to tackle with the new qualification.

Thursday's league tables are based on GCSE, as well as A-level results, for 2011.

Selective schools dominated the top of the tables again this year.

For a second year running, Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby held the top spot in the GCSE league table.

The boys' grammar school, which also topped the table in 2008, entered 111 GCSE students this year, each of whom achieved at least five qualifications at grades C and above.

Headteacher Dr Peter Kent said: "It is good to know that the positive things we continue to do from year-to-year are having such an effect in helping the boys to achieve their full potential.

"We have a common sense approach, with a strong focus on high-quality teaching and learning and there is also a very positive attitude from the boys."

The news is bound to silence some protestations over the grammar school system, such as those of education campaigner Melissa Benn, who describes the 11 plus exams required to gain entry to the schools as "killing your love of learning". Earlier this month, Kent Council announced they would be considering a bid to open a new grammar school in the county.

But the grammar school success does not end there.

In the EBacc league tables, St Michael's Catholic Grammar School in North Finchley, London, was the top state school. Of the 96 pupils eligible, 97% took the qualification and 97% of those achieved the Baccalaureate.

Despite this, associate head Julian Ward said he believed the qualification was not yet a fair measure of comparison between schools and denied the school was doing "anything special".

"It reflects our historical choice within the school of the subjects we teach. It's good that our students are credited with an extra qualification and it endorses the choice we made in our curriculum, but we don't see it as a measure of comparison with lots of schools who put emphasis on different subjects."

He added other schools had not yet had time to adjust to the EBacc scheme and added: "It may be that in four or five years time you can compare schools in a more meaningful way."

2011's bottom school was one of the conservative's much touted academy breeds: St Aldhelm's Academy in Poole, Dorset, which saw just 3% of the 115 candidates gain five GCSEs at grades C and above.

The school opened as an academy in September 2010, sponsored by the Diocese of Salisbury and Bournemouth University.

The Borough of Poole has no direct role in the management of the school but Councillor Janet Walton, cabinet portfolio holder for Children, Families and Youth Services at the council, said the decision to pursue academy status was endorsed by the council.

"We felt the aims of the academy programme and the sponsors would provide the best route to achieving the further improvements required to address the long-standing issues of underachievement at the school and raising students' aspirations.

"The council was very concerned to learn of the academy's GCSE results for 2011 and shares the sponsors' disappointment with this outcome. It has offered its support to work with the principal and governing body of the Academy to ensure all necessary action is taken to improve the situation."

The most improved school was Fyndoune Community College in Sacriston, Durham. In 2011, 80% of its pupils achieved five or more GCSEs at grade C and above, compared to just 26% in 2008.

Principal Trevor Dunn said of the school's success: "We're delighted. The staff in the school, the students and parents in the community, are all thrilled that we've gone from a low point in 2008 - when really, things weren't as they should be - to a point in 2011 where they have obviously been really strong.

"The school was also rated as outstanding by Ofsted in November, so it's been a good year. We were very pleased to get that rating as an official stamp of approval that we're doing well."

Stephen Twigg, Labour's shadow education secretary, said the government should stop promoting "pet projects".

"If the government wants to promote English and maths across the education system, it cannot simply focus its attention on the minority of academies and free schools, or the Ebacc which is only taken by around one in eight pupils."

The Nation Union of Teacher's general secretary Christine Blower said the league tables did not give a "genuine reflection" of teacher or pupil achievement.

“What they do show is that league tables, by their very nature, will always put some schools at the top and some at the bottom. The new system will simply swap one crude measure for another.

“The league table system is still flawed and will still create a situation in which schools are concentrating on results rather than on providing the broad and balanced education to which every child is entitled."