Once failing academy one of most improved in country

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A Sheffield secondary school which was placed in special measures four years ago has been rated as one of the most improved in the country.

GCSE results have improved significantly at Sheffield Park Academy on the Manor where progress was once described by then Schools Secretary Ed Balls as “unacceptable”.

The school, which left council control to be run by the Christian charity, United Learning Trust, had 31% of pupils achieving five good grades including English and maths in 2010.

Results have improved every year and now the figure is 61%.

Headteacher Craig Dillon said: “It’s down to sheer hard work from everybody at the school.The success of our pupils now is also helping inspire younger pupils joining the school. We had a quarter of our sixth form students joining red brick universities and that helps to raise inspirations.”

Mr Dillon, who joined the school in 2007 and became head in 2012, said Park had worked with Notre Dame.

Its sister academy Sheffield Springs at Arbourthorne is also starting to make significant progress. Its figures for good GCSE grades have gone up from 15% to 46% over four years.

Principal Russell Heritage said the results were “our best ever, and show that the academy continues to head in the right direction – although we still have a long way to go”.

Sheffield students bucked national trends to produce better GCSE results last year.

Performance tables show 57.3% of 16-year-olds achieving five A*-C grades, including English and maths, an increase of 1.7% on the previous year. Nationally there was a drop from 59.4% to 59.2%.

The latest results were against a background of the introduction of tougher science and maths papers, closer checks on teachers’ marking of English coursework and penalties for sloppy spelling and grammar.

But despite Sheffield’s better performance, it fell from 114th to 117th out of 150 councils.

The latest tables show Handsworth Grange and Ecclesfield among the country’s top 200 most improved schools.

Only two secondaries failed to reach the Government’s so-called ‘floor target’, Yewlands and Chaucer, although others still have much to do – including Parkwood, Newfield, City and Hinde House.

In the rankings for A-level performance Sheffield came 73rd.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for 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.”