Plymouth schools make the grade as exam results improve
STUDENTS in Plymouth have achieved better GCSE results than last year, according to league tables released yesterday.
The news comes despite the grade boundary saga over the English GCSE exams after it emerged papers taken in June were graded more harshly than those in January. The ongoing battle did make a significant difference to overall results.
The percentage of students achieving at least five A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent, including English and maths, rose from last year by about one per cent to 57.5 per cent.
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Several schools made huge improvements, Coombe Dean School went from 58 per cent of students last year achieving at least five A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent, including English and maths, to 71 per cent this year.
Further down the table, 65 per cent of pupils at Plymstock School were achieving those grades, and 51 per cent of pupils were at Stoke Damerel Community College.
Carol Hannaford, principal at Stoke Damerel, said: "We are very pleased that all students at Stoke Damerel have made expected or above expected progress in English and maths. This goes to show how well our students did through their education here."
At Sir John Hunt Community Sports College, 29 per cent of pupils at were getting grades A*-C in five GCSE – or equivalent qualifications.
Principal of Sir John Hunt Community Sports College Wendy Brett said: "We think what the tables don't do is look at the exams in the summer.
"We followed the Government direction and as a result of that a number of pupils have missed out and their results were not what they were expecting. We were devastated when that happened. We're working hard to make sure justice is done.
"These qualification are life changing, how can you compare when the children have been so disadvantaged."
Despite the lower than expected results in English this year, as a whole, Plymouth schools ensured that students made good progress since they were last nationally assessed at age 11.
Approximately 70 per cent of students made expected progress in English and this remains two per cent above the national average despite a fall of approximately two per cent on last year's results.
Progress in maths made by students in Plymouth improved by about five per cent.
This means that 125 more students made the expected improvement in their grades since they were tested at age 11 compared to last year's results.
Cllr Nicky Williams, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "Hopefully all those who received their results last year are already well established in their chosen further study or career paths. Now more than ever a good education is so important, as competition in today's jobs market is fierce. All our schools and students should be congratulated for their hard work.
"I'm sure we will continue to see strong collaboration amongst Plymouth secondary schools and colleges as we make sure that the city enables all our young people to make the most of their talents and opportunities."
At A/AS-level, the average number of points netted per pupil at each school has also been collated. At Devonport High School for Boys the average number of points per pupil was 1074.2, which was the highest in the city.
At Stoke Damerel Community College the average number of points per pupil was 529.6.
Sixty-nine per cent of pupils at Plymouth High School for Girls reached the English Baccalaureate – getting A*-C GCSE passes in maths, English, two science subjects, a language and either history or geography.
At Tor Bridge High, St Boniface's RC College and Marine Academy Plymouth, that total was one per cent of pupils.
Steve Baker is the city branch secretary for the Association of School and College Leaders, which represents 80 per cent of secondary heads and also the principal of Lispon Community College.
He said: "Performance data, even when it's robust, can be misused or misunderstood and judgements made about school performance which are not reliable.
"This year's performance data has been skewed by the issues with GCSE grading, particularly in English. This means that direct comparisons with performance in previous years have become difficult. We would strongly caution anyone against using this year's data on its own to draw conclusions about schools' performance.
"It is essential that confidence in performance tables is restored so that judgements made about schools on the basis of data are fair and can be trusted by parents. The data in this year's performance tables must be handled with care."
EXAM GRADING CATASTROPHE HAS SKEWED THE TABLES
GRADING of this year's GCSE English papers has been a hot topic since the results were released last year.
Controversy surrounded this summer's results, in which grade boundaries were moved mid-year.
A number of schools in the city were affected by the changes and a row broke out in August after it emerged papers taken in June were graded more harshly than those in January.
Plymouth joined a consortium of other Local Authorities, Professional Associations and schools to challenge the exam watchdog Ofqual and two exam awarding bodies.
The outcome of the judicial review is expected this month.
Cllr Nicky Williams, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "It was absolutely right that we joined the grade boundary fight.
Students received lower grades than they rightfully deserved, so much so that we wrote to the Secretary of State to urge him to step-in.
"Now we are one of the councils across the country challenging the legality of what was done.
"You can't simply be allowed to change the cut-off points for grades half way through the academic year.
"It's ridiculous and unjust, and it disadvantaged schools that took end of year exams in June, as many of the 'C' and above grades had already been awarded to students who took the same exam in January.
"It is therefore very difficult to compare school performance this year."
Headteachers are also behind the fight.
Isobel Bryce, headteacher of saltash.net school, said students should not have had the misfortune to have been caught up in the "lottery" whereby results were affected by which exam board and particular syllabus a school had selected.
EGGBUCKLAND SEES GCSE IMPROVEMENT
ONE of the most improved state secondary schools for GCSE results in the city this year was Eggbuckland Community College.
The college also came within the 200 most improved state secondary schools at GCSE in the country this year.
Altogether 65 per cent of students at the Eggbuckland based school achieved grades A*-C in five GCSE – or equivalent qualifications – including English and maths. Last year that total was 58 per cent of pupils.
Katrina Borowski, headteacher of Eggbuckland Community College, said: "We are very proud to be recognised in this way, however most important of all is the fact that so many of our students achieved some stunning exam successes which have helped them to move on to the next step of their education or career.
"Of course crucial to this is the unswerving commitment, dedication and encouragement of teachers and support staff, parents and carers."
Comparing results across Plymouth, the best performing school was Devonport High School for Girls, at the top of the table, with 99 per cent of pupils getting grades A*-C in five GCSE – or equivalent qualifications – including English and maths.
Plymouth High School for Girls saw 95 per cent of pupils achieving five grades of A*-C in five GCSE or equivalent qualifications.