Sheffield teenagers bucked national trends by producing improved GCSE pass rates in 2013 – despite tough new changes introduced for the first time.
Performance tables show 57.3 per cent of the city’s 16-year-olds achieved five A*-C grades, including English and maths – up by 1.7 per cent.
Nationally, the figure slipped back slightly, from 59.4 to 59.2 per cent, bringing an end to an era of regular annual improvements.
A series of changes were introduced by ministers, including the introduction of tougher science papers, a move to raise grade boundaries in maths, closer checks on teachers’ marking of English coursework and penalties for sloppy spelling and grammar.
But Sheffield’s better performance brought no reward in the national table of local authorities – the city fell from 114th to 117th out of 150 councils, its pass rate equal with Leeds and Newcastle.
However, education chiefs will be pleased that city secondary schools have managed to build on the major progress made in 2012, when pass rates shot up by more than six per cent, the biggest rise in years.
There will also be encouragement taken from the performances of a number of individual schools, most notably Sheffield Park Academy.
The Manor estate secondary school, which until only recently was struggling to reach minimum targets, is now the 16th most improved school in the country over the last four years, with its pass rate up by 30 per cent.
Statistics revealed for the first time this year show it is also one of the best schools in the country at providing careers-based courses for its post-16 students.
Headteacher Craig Dillon said: “We are pleased with our standing in these latest tables which demonstrates the significant progress the academy has made over the last few years.
“To have almost doubled the number of students gaining five good GCSE grades is down to the hard work and commitment of our staff and students.”
Its sister academy Sheffield Springs at Arbourthorne also at last has started to make significant progress, up 15 per cent to 46 per cent.
Its principal Russell Heritage said: “We are very pleased with our GCSE results which are our best ever, and show that the academy continues to head in the right direction – although we still have a long way to go.”
Handsworth Grange and Ecclesfield also maintained excellent recent progress to stay among the country’s top 200 most improved schools, while it was a good year too for Firth Park and Fir Vale.
Top-performing state school was Notre Dame with Tapton and Bradfield not far behind.
Only two schools failed to reach the Government’s so-called ‘floor target’, Yewlands and Chaucer, though others still have much to do – including Parkwood, Newfield, City and Hinde House.
In the rankings for A-level performances Sheffield came 73rd, up from 118.
Coun Jackie Drayton, Cabinet member for children and young people said: “I am pleased that Sheffield schools are closing the gap with the national average but there is still a long way to go.
“Pupils, teachers, families and school staff must be praised for their achievements, especially at those schools that have seen a significant increase.
“We will now be working with schools to see how we can build on this improvement.
“We need to make sure that young people achieve their full potential.”