'Failures' turn the tables

24th November 1995 at 00:00
Performance tables reveal that 115 schools achieved worse exam results than the 11 singled out by inspectors. Stratford grant-maintained school, under threat of closure for failing to provide an adequate education, now has better exam results than eight of its neighbours in the London borough of Newham.

Stratford is one of 11 failing schools whose pupils have achieved higher grades than the 115 at the bottom of the Government's performance tables published this week. The findings will further fuel criticism that the tables provide an incomplete picture of schools' performance.

Poor results are just one of the factors inspectors take into account when assessing whether a school requires constant monitoring. They also consider truancy and expulsions, and whether pupils are achieving in line with their ability.

However, the performance tables do show that after almost two years two failing schools have managed to improve their results substantially. The proportion of fifth-formers achieving five or more higher-grade GCSEs at Stratford has gone up from 11 per cent to 28 per cent in 12 months. At Northicote in Wolverhampton, which has just been removed from the failing list, the figure has gone up from 8 per cent to 23 per cent.

Two London schools on the list for a similar period, Battersea Technology College and the Phoenix, have not registered any improvement. At Battersea, only 1 per cent of pupils managed five or more higher-grade GCSEs, compared with none the previous year. The results at Phoenix, failed in February 1994, have gone down from 11 per cent in 1994 to 5 per cent this year.

Of the 71 fifth-year pupils at the first school to be closed by the Government, Hackney Downs in London, 11 per cent gained five or more higher-grade GCSEs, the same as the previous year. Its pupils will be decamped to Homerton, which achieved a similar result.

As well as Hackney Downs, there are another 10 failing schools that do not figure in the bottom 115 in the tables - schools where fewer than 10 per cent of pupils achieved five or more higher-grade GCSEs. At Tamarside Community College in Devon, 20 per cent of the fifth-form managed the five GCSE benchmark, compared with 15 per cent last year and at Ingram high in Croydon, 19 per cent of 15-year-olds managed five or more higher-grade GCSEs.

Gillian Shephard, Education and Employment Secretary, acknowledged this week that Stratford has made significant progress.

At the bottom of the tables there are three schools where not a single pupil managed five or more GCSEs at grade C or above and a further three managed only 1 per cent, one of which is Battersea. Those schools may not yet have been inspected by the Office for Standards in Education.

The tables also show that GM schools are outperforming local authority schools. Sixteen of the 20 top-performing state schools at GCSE level are GM.

Their success is at least partly accounted for by the disproportionate number of selective schools within the GM sector - it has 84 grammar schools out of a total of 162. A further 38 GM schools have applied to introduce partial selection since they opted out.

Researchers have already pointed out that fewer children from poor families or with special needs go to GM schools.

There is no evidence that the schools are doing well because of their GM status, despite claims by ministers that self-governing schools produce higher standards.

A TES analysis has shown that of those schools where more than 90 per cent of pupils achieved five or more higher-grade GCSEs, 54 per cent were GM.

Seven of the 15 city technology colleges this year performed above the national average of 43.5 per cent of pupils gaining five or more A* to C grades. Five were below and three did not have Year 11 pupils.

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