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College-backed academies triumph in GCSE results

But questions are raised over dependency on vocational `GCSE- equivalent' qualifications

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But questions are raised over dependency on vocational `GCSE- equivalent' qualifications

Colleges that sponsor and run academies have continued to see rises in GCSE results as their vocational approach pays off.

City Academy Norwich, sponsored by City College Norwich, posted its first results since the college's involvement began, with 40 per cent of pupils achieving five A*-C grades, up from 23 per cent the previous year.

The academy's principal, David Brunton, said: "In its first year, the academy has exceeded all the targets for improvement set by the Government and achieved a significant improvement on last year's results. As a result, we will have more than double the number of students moving on to our sixth form.

"This was achieved by young people who spent all but one year of their schooling at the predecessor school to the academy."

He was particularly pleased with results in maths and English, where the proportion gaining good grades rose from 28 per cent in both to 44 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.

Hull College's Sirius Academy also saw results rise 11 per cent in its first year, with 75 per cent earning five A*-C grades.

Barnfield College, which runs two academies in federation and is due to launch a third next month, saw every student at Barnfield West achieved five good GCSEs and one in three achieve five As. At the second academy, Barnfield South, nearly two-thirds gained five A*-C grades.

Pete Birkett, chief executive of the Luton college, said the rate of improvement, which averaged over 15 per cent a year, had slowed in this third year of sponsorship but he was pleased to consolidate the gains. "The key word for us is sustained and continued improvement," he said.

The rapid rise up the league tables of many academies has been questioned due to their reliance on GCSE equivalents such as BTEC Firsts and OCR Nationals, which are worth up to four GCSEs but which critics claim are easier. At Barnfield South, 100 per cent of BTEC students achieved Cs or above.

A full breakdown of results by qualification type was not available as FE Focus went to press, but last year's results at Barnfield West would have fallen from 54 per cent achieving five good grades including English and maths to just 29 per cent if only GCSEs were counted.

Mr Birkett defended the use of other qualifications. "We didn't create the currency of these qualifications, they were created elsewhere," he said. "We are about providing courses that are right for the students to enable them to be successful. We pride ourselves on giving them our personalised approach."

The A-list: FE's foray into academy sponsorship

SponsorsAcademies

Barnfield College Further Education Corporation Barnfield WestBarnfield South

Bradford CollegeAppleton

Barrow-in-Furness Sixth Form College The FurnessFurness College

Dearne Valley CollegeDe Warenne

West Hertfordshire CollegeFrancis Combe

West Kent CollegeThe Skinners Kent

Hull CollegeSirius

City College NorwichCity Academy Norwich

South East Essex CollegeOrmiston Park

City of Wolverhampton FE CollegeSouth Wolverhampton Bilston

Tameside CollegeDroylsden

The Manchester CollegeCreative amp; Media (Boys)

Creative amp; Media (Girls)

Manchester EnterpriseHealth.

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