Summit school at four-year high point

Kerra Maddern & Michael Shaw

Staff and pupils at England's most improved secondary have had to climb a mountain to get where they are today.

But then Samuel King's in Alston, Cumbria, is literally on top of a mountain in the north Pennines, and has been partially closed almost 10 times already this term because of the weather.

The secondary only has 204 pupils, but is part of a federation with schools in Cumbria and Northumberland, giving it a bigger geographical catchment area than London.

The proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs including maths and English rose from just 17 to 64 per cent in four years - the biggest improvement in the nation. But it does not get the credit (below) because results dipped in 2007.

Anthony Tuffery, assistant head, said: "I think our size helps our success as every member of staff knows every pupil well."

Chesterton Community Sports College in Staffordshire saw its results soar from 16 to 51 per cent over four years, making it officially the second most improved in the country.

Lynn Jackson, its head, said there was no "magic pill" for improvement, but a crucial change had been getting all pupils to sit English and maths a year early.

Only 26 per cent passed both exams first time, but it freed many up to concentrate on their weaker subject.

"After sitting the two once, they no longer see them as a big scary monster," Mrs Jackson said.

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Kerra Maddern & Michael Shaw

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