Starting to make the grade

GCSE RESULTS AT MYERS GROVE SCHOOL Students celebrate their results at Myers Grove School, Stannington.    23 August 2010
GCSE RESULTS AT MYERS GROVE SCHOOL Students celebrate their results at Myers Grove School, Stannington. 23 August 2010
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Record numbers of city secondaries are passing the test at GCSE. Lesley Draper reports

CITY secondary schools are celebrating a new landmark this week as official performance tables show Sheffield’s best-ever pass rate – and the biggest improvement in years.

A record 49.2% of 16-year-olds gained five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths, at GCSE last summer.

That figure is up nearly 5% on 2009 and is 12% higher than in 2006. Nationally the improvement is only 7% over the same period, although it remains ahead of Sheffield at 53.1%. The overall number of passes is also up – at 91%, nearly three points higher than the national average.

The figures are a boost for Sheffield education directors, endorsing their claim that the city is at last closing the gap and improving faster than anywhere else in the UK.

But there is bad news, too – nine city schools feature among the worst 200 in the country for truancy. Parkwood and Springs academies, Abbeydale Grange, City, Newfield, Chaucer, Hinde House and Firth Park schools all have persistent absence rates of well over 8% of pupils.

Park Academy has one of the worst records for truancy in the country.

New this year is a measure for students achieving the so-called English Baccalaureate: grade C or higher in English, maths, science, a humanity and a foreign language.

Sheffield High School was named among the top 200 schools in the country, with 75 of a possible 103 students making the grade.

Headteacher Valerie Dunsford said: “We pride ourselves in advising the students to continue with a broad and balanced curriculum alongside an extensive choice of extra-curricular activities.”

The performance tables were welcomed by Coun Colin Ross, cabinet member for children’s services. “We said that raising aspirations and outcomes in Sheffield schools was our number one priority and we are now beginning to see a difference.

“But we cannot be complacent. We want to see even more improvements in future years as there is still a lot to do to reach the level where the city should be.”

Schools singled out for praise included Yewlands Technology College, Parkwood Academy, Myers Grove, Fir Vale, Birley Community College and All Saints RC School, which all achieved 12% improvement in just two years.

Work is still needed to boost results at the bottom end of the table, where Parkwood Academy remains below the Government’s 30% benchmark along with now-closed Abbeydale Grange. The tables also show that Sheffield’s A-level results remain good, improving in line with national standards and comparing well with neighbouring authorities.

The average city A-level pupil now gains a C grade or equivalent.