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Strategy coming up from below

The concentration of effort on improving results appears to be paying off at Anfield, an inner city Liverpool comprehensive, not far from Broadgreen. The Anfield area may be marginally less deprived, but three years ago its exam results were worse.

The first league table saw Anfield trailing near the bottom with only six per cent of fifth-formers gaining five or more GCSEs at grades A to C. The figure improved to 13.1 per cent last year, and this year it has reached 18.3 per cent.

The figures still leave the school below the local authority average of 25 per cent and well below the national average of 43.3 per cent, but the turnaround has been remarkable.

Initially, the senior management team set about dealing with behaviour and truancy. Seven or eight years ago, the school had a reputation locally for poor discipline. That has changed with the introduction of pupil diaries and the involvement of parents. The attendance rate is now 90 per cent.

Brian Boyle, head since last year, but acting head since 1991, says the priority now is raising achievement.

After the first set of results in 1992, the school set up a team of five teachers to look at ways of securing better results. That resulted in the school identifying - using reading scores - the pupils with potential. Extra lessons were provided at lunch-time and pupils given guidance about attendance.

The team no longer exists and departments now have responsibility for achieving the good results. Departments decide on setting or streaming, but the usual pattern is to set for the two top classes and have the rest in mixed ability sets.

The school is developing a sophisticated database which allows departments to see how individuals are performing and can compare that with their potential as identified by their reading scores on entry to the school.

Parents get a letter every term telling them how their child is doing across all the subjects. There is a system of credits - 10 credits mean a letter home - 50 credits mean a voucher.

The targeting includes looking at ways of shifting the results - this year the schools appears to have made an impact on the crucial boundary between a C and a D grade - thereby increasing the proportion of higher grade GCSEs.

According to deputy head, Steve Rowland, there is still work to be done on coursework. Some pupils fail to get a grade because they have not completed it.

The school's inspection report from the Office for Standards in Education at the end of 1993 was critical of attendance levels, but noted they were improving. However, in the final exam years attendance was below 90 per cent.

The inspectors' view was that the exam results were broadly in line with what might be expected from pupils' attainment on arrival. GCSE results for girls are lower than those achieved by boys, and the reports suggests teachers should have higher expectations of girls.

The head is confident that they are getting results from lower down the ability range. The local authority suggests children with a reading score of 115 at 11 should achieve five higher GCSEs. The school reckons it has pupils with reading scores as low as 100 gaining five A to Cs.

He insists the strategy is about raising achievement. Exam results are improving and that has done much for the self-esteem of teachers and pupils.

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