Concern at poor GCSE results in Lowestoft
PUBLISHED: 09:22 29 August 2014 | UPDATED: 11:32 02 September 2014
Staff and governors at three Lowestoft high schools were this week reflecting on a deeply disappointing set of GCSE results amid concerns that a lack of resources and experienced teachers are preventing young people realising their potential.
All three of the town’s schools where students sat full GCSE exams – Benjamin Britten High, East Point Academy and Ormiston Denes Academy – published results that were down on last year and among the worst in Suffolk.
Their performance prompted a demand for action from politicians and education leaders, while Suffolk County Council said it had already recognised the problem of low standards and vowed to take up the issue with the government.
The results, published last Thursday, saw all the three high schools fall well short of the county average for the percentage of students gaining five or more A* to C grades including English and maths – the government’s benchmark for GCSEs.
This was achieved by 36pc of students at Benjamin Britten, 33pc at East Point and 28pc at Ormiston Denes, whereas the countywide average was 56pc.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he was very concerned by the figures.
“The results were very disappointing and we need to do better,” he said. “One of the things we need to be concentrating on is attracting more teachers to the area.
“It is something I have been talking to headteachers about in Lowestoft. It can be difficult to attract teachers into the area. I will be taking up the issues with the county council and at government level.”
Two years ago, the county council launched its Raising the Bar initiative to help drive up educational achievement across Suffolk and the Lowestoft Rising project has been involved in local efforts to recruit more teachers to the area.
Lisa Chambers, the county councillor responsible for education, said: “The Waveney area has been pinpointed as one of the areas for improvement through Raising the Bar.
“We shall continue to increase our presence in the area by the implementation of different initiatives such as embracing local approaches such as Lowestoft Rising which promotes aspiration among young people.
“Other aims for the area include developing a teacher recruitment drive plan which will be led by the headteachers at schools and there will also be a focus on developing English and maths through links between the schools and colleges.
“I’ve previously challenged the Department for Education on the number of failing academies in Suffolk and this is something which the county council will continue to challenge through the regional schools commissioner.”
However, Pakefield county councillor Sonia Barker, Labour’s education spokesman for Suffolk, said more needed to be done to resolve the problems in Lowestoft.
“The Raising the Bar initiative and Lowestoft Rising initiatives are not yet delivering on the targeted support needed, which includes attracting teachers to a coastal area that is increasingly having difficulties in retaining staff in some schools,” she said.
“I’ve been calling for a targeting of resources for schools in Lowestoft since last year. Waveney already had the lowest GCSE results in England before last week’s results.”
Graham White, secretary of Suffolk NUT, said he believed a lack of funding was part of the problem.
“Schools need to be well funded to ensure there are the support staff and teachers to help students improve,” he said. “We need to provide the support students and parents need.”
Another factor said to have affected last Thursday’s results were recent education reforms – including removing speaking and listening from English grades, and greater importance being placed on final exams with less coursework.
Benjamin Britten High has launched an appeal against its results, which saw the number of students achieving five A*-C grade GCSEs, including English and maths, fall 10pc on last year.
Headteacher Andrew Hine said: “We do not believe we have seen an accurate reflection of our students’ abilities in English this year and have already commenced a challenge to the marks awarded by the exam board. We’re aware of reports in the media that this has affected other schools nationally.”
Neil Powell, who was appointed principal at East Point Academy in February, said he was “disappointed” with its results which were down 6pc on last year.
Mr Powell added that changes to exams had affected “maths and other GCSE areas”, but insisted the academy’s results showed it was “starting to make progress across the board in raising standards”.
A spokesman for Ormiston Denes Academy said the school was “disappointed” with its 28pc figure for five A*-C grade GSCEs including maths and English – a fall of 2pc on last year.
At Pakefield High School, which opened in 2011, students only sat a selected number of GCSE exams.
Last year, Suffolk was ranked 137th in a national league table of GCSE results.
■Waveney GSCE results round-up – Pages 4, 5