How Waveney’s schools fared in league tables

Pupils sitting an exam. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

Pupils sitting an exam. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Headteachers defended academies across Suffolk this week after it emerged they were behind the majority of the worst-performing schools for GCSE results.

The worst five schools in the county for students achieving at least five A* to C grades including English and maths last year were sponsored academies, Department for Education (DfE) figures showed.

A breakdown of the research found that out of the 46 of 73 secondary schools in Suffolk for which the DfE published GCSE results, only one academy featured inside the top 25.

The combined average of the 12 academies was 39 per cent. Excluding academies, Suffolk's combined average stood at 60 per cent in 2014 – almost nine percentage points higher than the average (51.7 per cent) of all schools in the county.

Schools where fewer than 40 per cent of pupils achieve the benchmark GCSE results are at risk of being declared 'failing' and turned into an academy.

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Meanwhile, 27 schools in Suffolk did not have their GCSE results published by the DfE following a shake-up of the league tables.

Under the government's overhaul, some combinations of English GCSEs and some international GCSEs – often known as IGCSEs and favoured by many private schools, which see them as rigorous qualifications – do not count in the rankings.

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Only Sir John Leman High School in Beccles (60 per cent) and Saint Felix School in Reydon (54 per cent) recorded results above the county-wide average – and the Beccles high school was the only school or academy in Waveney to increase their figures from 2013 to 2014.

There were mixed results for Ormiston Academies Trust – which oversees Ormiston Denes Academy in Yarmouth Road, Lowestoft – across Norfolk and Suffolk.

A trust spokesman said that its schools had refocused their curriculums to concentrate 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.'

With Ormiston Denes Academy recording a two per cent fall year-on-year, to 28 per cent in 2014,

Principal Peter Marshall, said: 'The whole team at Ormiston Denes are resolutely committed to raising the standards of education for our students. We have made very significant progress since conversion to an academy late last year and are very pleased by the projections for our current year 11 and the excellent progress of our younger year groups.'

The figures also showed that Benjamin Britten High School (37 per cent), and East Point Academy (32 per cent), recorded nine per cent and seven per cent falls from 2013 to 2014. Andrew Hine, Benjamin Britten High School headteacher, said his schools results marked 'a low point in the school's history and is a position that we wish to look back at in future years in order to measure our progress'.

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Graham White, secretary of Suffolk's National Union of Teachers (NUT) branch, said the national GCSE league tables are 'divisive' and fail to represent the scale of the challenges faced by schools in some areas.

He added that schools are also being used as a 'political football' and called for an end to the 'privatisation' of education.

He said: 'League tables are a very unhelpful and divisive way to judge schools (and) we know that the schools lowest in Suffolk league tables are in areas of most deprivation.

Teachers, headteachers and school staff in general are doing their best for all pupils in enabling those students to achieve the best they can.

'Academic success is not the be all of education - it is much broader than that.

Developing students' talents and enabling them to be effective and informed citizens is important too. All pupils need basic skills such as literacy and numeracy, but vocational and social skills are important too and these are not measured by league tables.'

He said qualified teachers must teach every class and that improving pay and conditions would reverse the trend of teachers resigning, adding:

'We need to stop the privatisation of education and value teachers and education rather than use them as a political football.'

With the Suffolk-wide and national averages falling amid toughened performance measures and major reforms, Suffolk did however climb 12 places in the national league table, from 137th position out of 151 local authorities in 2013 to 125th in 2014.

Lisa Chambers, cabinet member for education and skills at Suffolk County Council, welcomed the figures but warned the authority would not become complacent.

She said: 'It's extremely important to praise some of the exceptional work that's being carried out in many of Suffolk's schools. We always knew this wasn't going to be a quick over night fix. however Raising the Bar is a long-term investment from partners across the county to see educational attainment improve.'

But Sonia Barker, spokesman for education and skills at the Suffolk County Council's Labour group, accused the authority of presiding over a 'steady decline' in education.

She added: 'While this administration will try to paint a rosy picture of schools in Suffolk, the countywide data masks pockets of deprivation and failure.'

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