The latest school league tables for GCSE results have ranked Peterborough in the bottom 20 of the 151 local authorities in England and Wales... but the city’s A-level results have seen a big improvement.
The Key Stage 4 (KS4) results released this morning (29 January) show that an average of 50 per cent of pupils got five or more A* to C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and maths in Peterborough schools, a significant fall on last year’s figure of 56.2 per cent.
Last year Peterborough was ranked 126th out of the 151 Local Education Authorities but this year slipped down to 134th place, but that is still higher than the 144th position achieved in 2013.
The highest rank in the city was achieved by the King’s School where 90 per cent of pupils achieved five or more A* to C GCSE grades including English and maths, with the Iqra Academy at 35 per cent, Nene Park Academy at 39 per cent, Thomas Deacon Academy at 39 per cent and The Voyager at 40 per cent at the foot of the table.
There were good performances in the GCSE results for The Peterborough School, ranked second with 81 per cent, Hampton College third with 74 per cent and Arthur Mellows VC fourth with 70 per cent.
In terms of A-level results Peterborough ranked 35th out of 151 LEAs.
City council cabinet member for education John Holdich said the results had been impacted by changes in the way grades were counted.
He claimed that many schools had entered pupils earlier in the year for many subject, if pupils had not achieved their expected grades in November they could re-sit exams the following summer. But Cllr Holdich said the changes to the way the Government counted results meant that early results were counted and not the higher grades many achieved in re-sits later on.
“The parameters were changed this year and so schools which entered more pupils for exams early were probably penalised. In the case of at least one city school that I am aware of this was as many as 40 per cent of pupils.
“If you look at the figures which show the progress pupils are making the results are very good. This is a freak set of results because of the changes to the system and I’m convinced that when it settles down we will be higher up the league table.
“The facts speak for themselves and the position in the table is disappointing but there are extenuating circumstances.”
Nationally the number of secondary schools considered to be under-performing has doubled in the wake of the major overhaul of the exams system, official figures show.
More than 300 schools fell beneath the Government’s floor target this year after failing to ensure that enough pupils gained five good GCSE grades and made decent progress in the basics, according to an analysis of new league tables.
The Department for Education (DfE) insisted that the rise is down to two key reforms - a decision that only a teenager’s first attempt at a GCSE would count in the annual performance tables, and a move to strip poor quality vocational qualifications out of the rankings.
But the increase is likely to cause concerns among school leaders, who have voiced fears that schools will be considered failing not just due to changes in the system but also”volatility” in last summer’s GCSE results.
The new league tables, published today, are based on data provided by the DfE and show how every school and college in England performed at GCSE, A-level and other academic and vocational qualifications in 2014.
They also indicate that dozens of secondaries, the majority of them private schools, have seen their results plummet to zero because some combinations of English GCSEs and some IGCSEs do not count in the rankings this year.
State secondaries are considered to be below the Government’s floor target if fewer than 40% of their pupils gain at least five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths, and students are not making good enough progress in these two core subjects.
In total, 330 schools fell below the benchmark this year, up from 154 last year.
Schools that fall below the threshold could face action, including being closed down and turned into an academy, or being taken over by a new sponsor.
However the DfE insisted that the floor standard is one of a number of factors that schools are judged on and falling below the benchmark does not automatically mean that a school will face intervention.
It also said that the two major changes to the exams system - which schools were told about around 18 months ago - do not affect pupils individual exam results.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “For too long pupils were offered courses of no value to them and schools felt pressured to enter young people for exams before they were ready.
“By stripping out thousands of poor quality qualifications and removing resits from tables some schools have seen changes in their standings.
“But fundamentally young people’s achievement matters more than being able to trumpet ever higher grades. Now pupils are spending more time in the classroom, not constantly sitting exams, and 90,000 more children are taking core academic subjects that will help them succeed in work and further study.”
Mrs Morgan added that the Government has “raised the bar” and that schools are already rising to the challenge.
Earlier this week the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) claimed that the Government floor targets are “pretty much irrelevant” this year due to the upheaval in the exams system.
ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman warned against judging the nation’s schools on one set of exam results, saying too much has changed compared with 2013 to draw accurate comparisons from year to year.
Last summer’s GCSE results showed a sharp drop in English grades, with 61.7% of entries scoring A*-C, down 1.9 percentage points from last summer. This is believed to be the biggest drop in the qualification’s history. Maths saw an opposite result, with 62.4% of entries gaining an A*-C grade, up a massive 4.8 percentage points on 2013.
These are key subjects in the Government’s floor target, and a lower-than-expected English result could push a school below the benchmark.