Dismay as GCSE results fall short

FLATLINING GCSE results at Sheffield secondary schools have put the city even further away from its long-cherished goal of meeting national averages, this year’s performance tables reveal.

Sixteen-year-olds in the city achieved only a 0.2% improvement last summer on the year before, up to 49.4%.

Nationally the improvement was a solid 3%, with 58.2% achieving five good grades including English and maths.

City education chiefs were dismayed and puzzled by 2011 results which seemed to be more polarised than ever before.

Some schools had excellent years, such as Handsworth Grange, Notre Dame. King Ecgbert and City. But others fared badly, including All Saints, King Edward VII and Fir Vale.

Meanwhile, results at seven schools – Chaucer, Firth Park. Hinde House, Newfield, Parkwood, Sheffield Springs and Yewlands – are causing particular concern.

They have failed to progress beyond the minimum pass rate of 35% demanded by the Government and face sanctions if improvements aren’t made.

Education chiefs and councillors were so concerned that they called most of the city’s heads in for individual post mortems to try to identify what went wrong.

Factors believed to have been identified include below-par year groups, disruption caused by school rebuilding works and the distractions of the national academy debate.

The figures overall represent a setback after good progress was made over the previous two years – in 2008 just over 40% of 16-year-olds were achieving good grades in five GCSEs, including English and maths.

Sheffield’s executive director of children’s services Dr Sonia Sharp said the focus in future needed to be on helping individual pupils reaching their potential.

“Some students were just one or two per cent below the pass rate between a C and a D and that can make a big impact,” she said. “Research shows that if just nine children in a school fail to make the grade, then that school can fail to reach its targets.

“We are planning a systematic, intense and detailed approach to help students reach their potential. Without exception, heads and governing bodies are concerned by the situation and are determined to improve.”

Dr Sharp said schools failing to meet so-called ‘floor targets’ were under tremendous pressure, with the expected pass rate due to rise still further this summer.

“There has never been a harder time to be a headteacher or a teacher in schools like these – the demands increase and people grow very anxious.

“But as far as the city overall is concerned, we do have to see the bigger picture. We are in a much stronger position than we were five years ago,” she added.