Expectations were so low at a community school that even the pupils referred to themselves as the Moreton morons.
So when Tony Leach became head of Moreton Community School in Wolverhampton, he knew he was in for a rough ride.
"The community called us the school the zoo on the hill," he said. "I remember on my first day I had a phone call from the local paper and was told, 'You realise this is one of the worst 50 schools in the country?' Now, six years later, I have The TES ringing up to say, 'Well done'. We are chuffed to bits."
The plaudits are to mark the fact that Moreton Community School has topped the contextual value added table with a score of 1,090.5.
Its "raw score" shows that just 30 per cent of its pupils achieved five A-star to C GCSEs, including English and maths, but its CVA measure shows that the school is having a hugely positive impact.
Once again there is no magic spell to making a school and its staff and pupils successful.
Mr Leach said: "When I started here six years ago, the kids called themselves the Moreton morons. All I did was set the right culture and the right belief among staff and students. I know it sounds cliched, but it is about getting the right ethos in the school. We have a passionate belief that students can do well. We also invest a huge amount of time in the school council. Students pick the school logo, the school badge and they are involved in interviewing staff. But it's not a factory. We have a laugh."
The CVA measure factors in the socio-economic factors a school is dealing with. Moreton's score of 1,090 means that on average, pupils have seven GCSEs at two grades higher and an eighth GCSE at one grade higher than their peers.
But the measure is not without controversy. Deborah Wilson, of Bristol University's Centre for Market and Public Organisations, said that ranking schools by CVA was "extremely misleading".
Each school has a CVA ranking based around 1,000, but it also has an upper and lower confidence limit, which is linked to the number of pupils tested. If these limits overlap for two schools, statistically speaking the schools are indistinguishable.
For the first time the tables include CVA measures between 14 and 16. The CVA measures between 11 and 14 will be published with the key stage 3 tables in February.
- Colchester Royal Grammar has come top of the A-level tables for the second year running. This year 134 pupils at the selective state school in Essex got an average of 1,323 points each, which is an average of almost five A grades each.
Record numbers of students did well, with 25.3 per cent of exam entries awarded A grades. Girls outperformed boys in most subjects.
THE 100% CLUB
The top five schools of all types (excluding special schools) nationally. All have 100 per cent of pupils reaching five A-star to C grades including English and maths. Rank is decided by average GCSE point score per pupil
1. Chelmsford County High School for Girls (foundation, selective girls, 11-18)
2. Lawrence Sheriff School, Rugby (voluntary aided, selective boys' 11-18)
3. Newport Girls' High School, Shropshire (community, selective girls' 11-18)
4. Colyton Grammar, Devon (foundation, selective, mixed 11-18)
5. King Edward VI Camp Hill School, Birmingham (voluntary aided, selective girls' 11-18)
THE MOST IMPROVED
The five schools that have shown the biggest improvement. List shows the proportion of pupils who gained five A-star to C GCSEs, including English and maths, in 2004 and 2007
1. The Matthew Arnold School, Staines, Surrey 18% - 50%
2. Frodsham School, a Science and Technology College, Cheshire 30% - 59%
2. St Patrick's RC High School and Arts College, Manchester 27% - 56%
2. Sandwich Technology School, Sandwich, Kent 20% - 49%
2. Hurlingham and Chelsea Secondary, Hammersmith and Fulham, London 12% - 41%
All have 100 per cent of candidates gaining at least five A-star to C-grades at GCSE, including English and maths.
They are ranked here by the average GCSE points score per candidate.
Rankings in brackets show where they stand when state schools are included
1. Perse School for Girls, Cambridge (11th overall)
2. Marist Senior School, Ascot (13th overall)
3. The School of St Helen and St Katharine, Abingdon (18th overall)
4. The Swaminarayan School, London (20th overall)
5. Westminster School, London (23rd overall).