No shame in GCSE results

At least a third of the secondary schools publicly humiliated in the Government's "name-and-shame" list of education failures were in fact improving, according to the latest GCSE statistics.

More of their pupils achieved top grade GCSEs this year, with one school - Dulwich High for Boys in south-east London - notching up a 12.3 per cent improvement in pupils gaining five or more A-Cs.

The National Association of Head Teachers this week condemned the Government's action and said the schools should never have been singled out as the worst in Britain.

"If the Government felt that by naming these schools it would somehow galvanise them into producing better results, then the timing of the exercise was wholly irrelevant, " NAHT general secretary David Hart said.

"Naming and shaming was not the right way to improve motivation and morale of students, teachers and staff, and could not conceivably be related to producing better exam results this year."

Civil servants are understood to have been unhappy at the naming by ministers of 18 schools - 11 of them secondaries - which were accused of making insufficient progress.

This week a spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment said the consultants sent into the schools after the list appeared would have had no impact on pupils' exam performance.

"Some of the schools named were on the way to recovery but they weren't going fast enough," he admitted. "For all those pupils involved in that exam improvement, we are delighted."

The named schools have been told to show significant progress by the start of term or face more drastic measures such as replacing senior staff or being given a Fresh Start - the Government's new scheme of closing schools temporarily and relaunching them under a new name. Ministers insisted that the intention was to give the schools a helping hand, not to hold them up to ridicule.

GCSE results obtained by The TES for seven of the 11 named secondaries show improvements in the proportion gaining five or more A to C grades at four schools - Dulwich Boys, Earl Marshal in Sheffield, Ashburton in Croydon and Lilian Baylis in Lambeth.

Performance at higher-grade GCSE remained stable at 7 per cent at Upbury Manor, a grant-maintained secondary modern in Gillingham, Kent, but fell at Kelsey Park in Bromley and Blakelaw in Newcastle.

It dropped by 2 per cent to 25 per cent at Kelsey Park, an 11-18 boys comprehensive, and by 0.9 per cent to 9.1 per cent at Blakelaw, a comprehensive which had been subject to closure and whose head is now seeking a Fresh Start from October.

Dulwich Boys, the former William Penn School, was notoriously avoided by Harriet Harman, the Social Security Secretary, when she sent her son to a grammar 10 miles away.

Lloyd van Marshall, headteacher, said: "This past year we have felt rubbished by the Government and the media. For staff, parents and boys to hang on in here is fantastic."

Russ Wallace, the head of Blakelaw, said: "Given the uncertainty surrounding the school, we are not unhappy with the figure and are especially pleased with the quality of passes many of our students obtained, especially at the top end."

Among the 11 named secondaries, Kelsey Park recorded the highest percentage of five-plus GCSEs at grades A-C (25 per cent). A national percentage is not yet available for this year, but in 1996, 44.5 per cent of pupils gained five or more top grades.

The Office for Standards in Education would not comment on the results at the schools identified as failing.

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