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Endeavouring to succeed

A school among England's poorest performers at GCSE can take heart from the improvement of another which last year had equally poor results, Helen Ward and Warwick Mansell report

A new pound;15 million school, painted yellow in an attempt to inspire children to learn, saw a dramatic drop in its GCSE results this year.

Only 8 per cent of pupils at Endeavour high gained five A* to C grades, compared with 17 per cent last year. The Hull school is now among the lowest-scoring in England.

Chris Straker, acting head, said: "I am disappointed for the children affected by a difficult year. We know we're under the microscope. A pupil at Endeavour only has to sneeze for it to make the press. We have new staff and a bright future.

"Next year our target is 30 per cent of pupils getting five A* to C grades," he said.

Endeavour high began life in 2001 on a split site after two struggling schools merged. It opened in a new building last September and has been beset by problems.

David Throp, headteacher, resigned in February after just six months. A team from nearby Kingswood high took over, but six weeks later inspectors put Endeavour into special measures.

Hull looks likely to remain at the bottom of the exam league tables, despite a city-wide increase in the number of pupils gaining at least five top-grade GCSEs.

This year, 34.3 per cent of pupils in the city gained the benchmark pass, up by two percentage points on 2003 results.

Nationally, the proportion of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland awarded high grades at GCSE grew by the biggest margin for five years, with 59.2 per cent of entries gaining a grade C or better.

There were improvements among schools which were at the bottom of the tables last year.

In 2003, 8 per cent of pupils at Beechwood school in Slough gained five or more A* to C grade GCSEs in 2003, up from just 4 per cent in 2002.

Now the 550-pupil secondary is celebrating a rise to 27 per cent, three years after radical action was taken to reform it.

Julia Shepard, headteacher, said: "We think the results are the highest the school has received since it was built in the 1960s.

"We have been supported by other schools, East Berkshire college and the local education authority. I think we are a model of how a town can take ownership of a school and do something magnificent."

Ramsgate school, a 550-pupil secondary modern in Kent, came bottom of the tables last year on just 4 per cent. This year, 15 per cent gained at least five good GCSEs.

Several secondaries which have improved results put pupils on intermediate General National Vocational Qualification courses, worth four GCSEs.

Particularly popular is an online GNVQ in information technology designed by Thomas Telford school. The Shropshire school posted - for the fifth year running - a 100 per cent score for pupils gaining five A*s to Cs or better.

Portsmouth city council is investigating a surprise drop in results, from 44 per cent getting five good GCSEs last year to 41 per cent this year. Six of the city's 10 secondaries did worse than in 2003.

There were mixed fortunes among other schools under pressure over results.

Among academies, the largely state-funded independent schools, Greig city academy, in Haringey, north London, saw results fall from 33 per cent achieving five passes at C or better to 28 per cent.

But results climbed at the King's academy, Middlesbrough, which saw 34 per cent of pupils achieve the benchmark figure, compared to 14 per cent at Brackenhoe comprehensive and 28 per cent at Coulby Newham, the two schools it replaced.

At Capital city academy, Willesden, north London, the proportion was 28 per cent, compared to 12 per cent last year, when it was Willesden high school.

And Bexley Academy, in south London, saw the figure for the former Thamesmead community college climb from 20 per cent of pupils last year to 35 per cent.

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