School heads to be quizzed over poor GCSE results

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EVERY secondary school headteacher in Sheffield is to be grilled by the council after disappointing 2011 GCSE results which have seen the city sink further behind national averages.

More than half of the city’s 16-year-olds are failing to achieve five good GCSE passes, including English and maths, according to provisional Government figures.

Sheffield’s pass rate of 49.1% this year was down on performance in 2010. Meanwhile the pass rate nationally went up by 4.8% to over 58%.

As a result Sheffield is certain to remain firmly rooted in the bottom quarter of the 150 English local authorities.

City heads will be quizzed individually at the town hall by a high-powered panel including chief executive John Mothersole, schools chief Dr Sonia Sharp, council leader Coun Julie Dore and cabinet member for children and young people, Coun Jackie Drayton.

The aim will be to find out which strategies are working and which are not.

Coun Dore said: “We are nowhere near where we should be in terms of our overall position nationally as a city. Some schools have done very well but altogether we are not where we should be.”

While some schools achieved record results in August, six secondaries remain in the Government’s danger zone, with pass rates below 35%.

Sheffield Springs Academy, Parkwood Academy, Newfield, Hinde House, Firth Park and Chaucer schools are all below the so-called ‘floor target’, with only Parkwood improving.

Already local secondary school headteachers have launched their own drive to boost results. Department heads of maths and English from more than 20 schools met at Sheffield Hallam University to discuss ways of raising standards.

David Conway, head at Bradfield School, admitted the 2011 results were “disappointingly lower than expected.

“We agreed that if we were hitting our targets in maths and English, then standards would improve. It is students who are missing their passes in these subjects that is the problem.

“The aim is to learn from those schools who are doing well and to see how they can support everyone else.”

David Bowes, head at both Tapton and Chaucer, said league tables no longer included information on how schools were helping pupils make good progress from lower starting points.

“The Government’s measure of five A to C passes including English and maths is the one that now matters most to them, and to us too,” he said.

“We are all working hard to reach those standards but the performance of a relatively small number of students can have a big impact on a school’s pass rate.

“It is true at Chaucer and it is true at Tapton too. There we had 13 students fail to achieve a grade C in English and because of that we missed our overall target and our pass rate was down to 70%.

“There are all sorts of reasons why things did not work out for those 13 in a subject which really does open doors. So every head now has an unrelenting focus on reaching those threshold measures.

“We will be saying at our meetings with chief executive John Mothersole: we want success and we can deliver. We will continue to work as hard as we can to help young people gain the best qualifications they can.”