Headteachers from some of the worst performing schools have defended their poor showing in this week's performance tables.
Some felt that last summer's GCSE students lacked ability. Others blamed social problems. All condemned the tables as "unhelpful" claiming they did not reflect factors outside their control.
At bottom-of-the table Ramsgate School, in Kent, pupils sought help from the school counsellor after the public condemnation of their school, headteacher Brian Lippitt said. Just 1 per cent of pupils gained five or more A* to C grades at the secondary modern, which serves a large council housing estate; 10 per cent of Year 11 girls are pregnant. Mr Lippitt said: "Everyone in this area knows we are improving. Seventy per cent of our pupils have special needs and this is an area of fierce competition."
John Wilson, head of Wyndham School, in Cumbria, where the proportion of pupils gaining five or more top grade GCSEs fell from 53 per cent in 1994 to 29 per cent last summer, giving the school the biggest decline overall, said the year group had a high number of statemented pupils."In fact, they made huge strides and I was very pleased with their progress."
John Wakely, head of Ringmer Community College, in East Sussex, where results also declined by 24 percentage points said the yearly variations reflected the average ability of pupils.
He said: "This is why the Government's policy of setting targets is so unrealistic. It is impossible for teachers to set targets which do not reflect the ability of the cohort. This school has a reputation for getting the best out of average ability children, but the tables do not show that."