Head resigns in exam debacle

4th November 2005 at 00:00
School in special measures hits new low after miscalculation of pass rate, report Roger Bushby and Graeme Paton.

One of the worst-performing state schools in the country was plunged into a fresh crisis this week when its head resigned in a new row over exam results.

Allen Andres, the pound;100,000-a-year head of New college, in Leicester, quit after the school reported an increase in the number of GCSE passes, but later admitted they had actually fallen to a record low.

The local council has launched an investigation into the blunder, which is thought to have been made after staff counted some papers twice.

It is the latest controversy to hit the troubled secondary school, which has been in special measures since 2003 and is now likely to be transformed into a privately-sponsored academy.

Hussain Suleman, the council's education spokesman, said: "I am absolutely livid. We thought we were moving in the right direction, but in fact we are going in completely the wrong direction.

"I want to know what went wrong. It's a shambles and it's not good enough."

The 1,700-pupil New college was created under the Government's Fresh Start initiative in 1999 after the merger of three comprehensives.

It was placed in special measures by the local authority in 2002, the first action of its kind taken by an LEA. The decision was then backed by Ofsted, which criticised "intimidating" pupil behaviour in an inspection three months later.

Last year, a strike was narrowly averted when nearly 40 teachers threatened to walk out following 12 assaults by pupils on members of staff.

Meanwhile, standards have continued to be among the lowest in the country.

A government-funded study, which questioned 200 Year 7 pupils on general knowledge, found that only three knew what happened on September 11, 2001, and fewer than 60 could name the Prime Minister.

In 2003 and 2004, only 13 per cent of pupils left with at least five good GCSE passes. Provisional results published in August indicated that 13.5 per cent of pupils had achieved five good passes, but final figures now reveal the proportion is just 10 per cent.

A spokeswoman for the council said some staff had incorrectly believed that certain subject papers counted as two GCSE passes instead of one.

The error is now subject to a full investigation.

Mr Andres, one of the best-paid heads in the country, announced he would step down in a letter to parents last week, allowing another head to "take the school forward". He admitted that the exam blunder was "very embarrassing and upsetting", but said: "I have relished the challenge of New college. I now feel that, having secured the foundations for future success, I would like to hand over the baton."

Mr Andres joined from the Government's academies division in early 2004, and was initially appointed for 12 months.

In a statement, the school's governing body, directly appointed by the local authority in a last-ditch rescue attempt, said: "We are deeply concerned at the level of results being achieved... and are addressing the action to be taken to drive up standards at the school."

Under new proposals, the school will be transformed into a pound;25 million academy, jointly-sponsored by the Church of England and David Samworth, chairman of Samworth Brothers, the manufacturer of Ginster pasties.

The two organisations are also backing the Samworth Enterprise academy, which will replace the Mary Linwood school in Leicester.

* graeme.paton@tes.co.uk

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