In 2006, only 10 per cent of pupils achieved five good GCSE results, including English and maths, at St James School in Exeter and the secondary was later named and shamed by the Government as part of the contentious National Challenge programme.
But hard work has paid off with a big rise in exam performance that is certain to make it one of the most improved in the country. This year, 41 per cent of pupils achieved five good grades, including English and maths, a huge step up from the low achievements of three years earlier.
Also in 2006, just 23 per cent of children scored five A*-C marks (without the two core subjects), but this has now jumped to 62 per cent. And the school has made these achievements without becoming an academy or trust.
Headteacher Helen Salmon (pictured, left), who took over in 2006, just after the GCSE low point, says she set about changing the "culture" of the school. She tracks every child every six weeks and has introduced support schemes such as assertive mentoring.
"I believe strongly that every community deserves a good school," she said. "When I came to St James I could see that it could be a good school which the community would feel proud of."