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Tables show schools must do better

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Schools in the Newark area are still among the worst in the county for GCSE passes that include maths and English.

League tables released yesterday appear to justify the decision of many Newark parents in the area to send their children to schools in Lincolnshire.

The Sir William Robertson High School, Welbourn, attended by around 150 Newark area children, out-performs Newark area schools.

It scored 56% at five A* to C overall, which drops to 42% when maths and English are included.

All Newark secondary schools are well below the national average, and the Newark High School is among the 190 worst nationally for pupils achieving at least five GCSEs at A* to C grades that include maths and English.

Figures given by the schools when GCSE results are released in August take into account a pass rate of five good grades, regardless of whether this includes English and maths.

The Magnus Church of England School, Newark, also fails to hit the Government’s 30% maths and English-inclusive target that schools must reach by 2012, or face closure, federation, or being turned into an academy.

The Grove School, Balderton, scored 48% for five A* to C GCSEs but this drops to 32% when maths and English are included.

It is also among the country’s worst for figures that compare pupils’ exam results with those of other similar pupils who had similar prior attainment.

The head, Mrs Patricia Head said she was pleased that the standard GCSE pass figure had improved for each of the last three years.

She said: “English, maths and science are strong at the Grove. Value added is important but there is something underneath the figures. We work hard with our pupils to achieve the best they can.

“Academic success is important for future prosperity, but so is happiness, the ability to contribute to society, and personal development. We are trying to get the balance right for students.”

She said parents decided where their children went to school but figures and league tables did not tell the whole story.

She said her year seven intake was fully subscribed this year.

The tables show The Grove School, Balderton, to be the highest achieving in GCSE English and maths of the three Newark area schools.

Its rate drops from 48% to 32% when English and maths are included — and it is ranked joint 39th out of 55 Nottinghamshire secondary schools.

Newark High School recorded its best-ever pass rate last year, with 61% of pupils achieving five A*-C or equivalent.

However, this drops to 19% when maths and English have to be included in the five. It was joint fifth worst school in the county in joint 51st place.

The acting head, Mr Robin Blackley, said: “The bottom line explanation is that the children we draw come to us with extremely low levels of literacy.

“Although a huge amount of work is put into improving them it is often extremely unlikely we are going to get them to grade C level at year 11.”

He said a Key Skills qualification is offered alongside GCSE English which tested pupils in basic literacy skills such as spelling, grammar and comprehension. He said the pass rate at level two for this qualification was 70%.

He said pupils found this more useful because it helped develop functional skills better than learning about literature and Shakespeare.

Mr Blackley said that all pupils besides those who were in alternative education sat GCSE maths and English, as well as either BTec or GCSE science exams.

He said their value added score was high and above the national average and showed that pupils progressed very well from entering to leaving the school.

They expected maths and English results to improve, and the overall five A*-C pass rate to reach around 90% this year.

Mr Blackley said: “It will be a sad irony that in our final year we will achieve our best ever results, and perhaps the best ever of any Newark school.”

The Magnus School’s scores dropped from 45% overall to 28% when maths and English are included. It was joint 43rd in the county.

The head, Mr Ian Anderson, said: “We were very pleased to get our headline five plus figure up nearly ten percentage points and we know we are not there yet, but there are signs of improvement.

“I am very confident maths and English will improve this year.

“Sometimes you get a group within a year group which become very focused and targeted, and we are trying to achieve that and make that group as big and as determined as possible.”

Mr Anderson said the figure for value added gave a more accurate picture of what was being achieved and the Magnus scored well in this.

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