Schools fighting to climb performance 'league' - with tables and map
Detailed statistics of how county schools performed in GCSE exams are published for the first time today. Zena Hawley reports on success stories.
WHEN Jo Ward took over as head teacher at Bemrose School nine years ago, she was determined to make sure results improved.
Now the school is celebrating its best-ever set of GCSE results and a good Ofsted judgment, with the promise of even more improvements to come.
Last summer, 41% of pupils achieved the gold standard five or more A* to C grades, including English and maths. When Ms Ward took over the Uttoxeter New Road school in 2004 this figure was just 8%.
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She said: "Last year's results broke all of our records, and that, alongside our best ever grade, a 'good' rating, from Ofsted, meant 2012 was a pretty impressive year for Bemrose. With the exception of one year, our results have been climbing gradually year-on-year. And we are certainly hopeful of another increase in 2013."
But, for Ms Ward, the most important figure is the value-added measure, which shows how pupils' educational performance has improved throughout their time at the school.
She said: "The most significant figure for us is how much progress our children make during their time with us – because at schools across the city the starting points are very different.
"The majority of pupils start at Bemrose way below the national average. In fact, a huge proportion haven't even been educated in this country when they start their schooling with us, while more than half don't speak English at home.
"So, we were delighted to learn that, based on last year's GCSEs, our value-added score was way above the national average, showing our students make more progress, given their starting point, than almost any school in Derby.
"Nationally, we are in the top eight of schools in the whole country for how fast our children improve in English. For maths, we are in the top quarter."
In order to make such improvements, the school has worked hard to improve behaviour and raise teaching standards. Class sizes are kept small, often with fewer than 25 pupils, and paired teaching, with two teachers in the same lesson, is used as often as possible.
Among the high achievers last year were 14 pupils who took their maths GCSE a year early and gained A and B grades.
Ms Ward said: "These pupils have formed an additional maths group, so the teachers can work with smaller groups of pupils, and I am now personally teaching them A-level maths."
The school plans to build on its success and is beginning by looking at what it needs to do in order to get an "outstanding" rating from Ofsted inspectors.
Ms Ward added: "The next phase for us is to keep improving and moving towards an outstanding judgment, so that the children who come here can be confident that things will always be good and usually be outstanding."
Overall, Derby secondary schools celebrated some of their best-ever GCSE results – for the fourth time in five years. As well as Bemrose, seven other of the city's 14 secondary schools improved on their 2011 GCSE figures.
These included Chellaston Academy, Derby Moor Community Sports College, Merrill College, Murray Park School, Sinfin Community School, Noel-Baker School and West Park School.
One school only, Merrill College with 37%, remains below the Government floor target of 40% for five or more A* to C grades, including English and maths, while da Vinci Community College recorded exactly 40%.
Coming out top in the city with a 100% pass rate for pupils achieving five or more A* to C grades, including maths and English, were the independent schools – Derby Grammar and Derby High, both in Littleover.
Ash Venkatesh, head teacher at Littleover Community School, said he was delighted with his school's results of 77% five or more A* to C grades including English and maths. He said: "The exact figure varies from year to year, according to the group of pupils concerned, but we are pleased to have maintained our tradition of excellent results."
Other top performing schools were the JCB Academy in Rocester, High fields School, Matlock, and Friesland School, Sandiacre.
Results for Derby schools
Results for Derbyshire schools