Schools suffer as GCSE reforms make a mark

GCSE Results day at Meadowhead School 'Students hug after reading their results
GCSE Results day at Meadowhead School 'Students hug after reading their results

Sheffield headteachers are preparing detailed post mortems into their 2014 GCSEs that could last weeks - after the city experienced its most volatile set of results in years.

Warnings from watchdog Ofqual that changes to the system could result in ‘turbulence’ proved to be fully justified with schools reporting results ranging from excellent to awful.

Overall Sheffield fared badly when compared to the national picture, which showed an overall rise in A* to C grades, despite a sharp decline in English.

Three city secondaries, all academies, had still to reveal their pass rates this week, with even the local authority unable to discover how well - or badly - Chaucer, Hinde House and King Ecgbert had done.

It may be much later in the year before the full picture emerges, but Sheffield’s 2013 pass rate of 57.3 - two per cent below the national figure - looks certain to slump.

Several schools reported sharp falls in their performances, reversing gains made in former years.

Fir Vale fell by 13 per cent, Firth Park by 12, Sheffield Springs Academy by ten, Westfield by 12 and Ecclesfield by a sobering 17 per cent.

There were setbacks too at All Saints, down four, Handsworth Grange, down five, and Birley Community College, down four.

Heads pointed to changes introduced at the behest of former Education Secretary Michael Gove which saw a renewed emphasis on exams rather than coursework and moves to discourage resits by counting only a pupil’s first attempt at a subject.

Breffni Martin, head at Fir Vale, said her intake included some of the city’s most vulnerable youngsters and her school had been ‘hammered’ by the reforms.

“It is bad news in the end for the kids, it really is - there are going to be a lot of very unhappy families in this area,” she said.

“I have had to go and tell youngsters they haven’t got the grades they need for sixth form places, for apprenticeships, for college courses they were hoping for.

“Many heads are absolutely shocked by the results they have received - we were stunned when we went through our figures.”

But there were success stories too - Yewlands bucked all the trends by posting a 15 per cent improvement, with 51 its best ever performance, while Newfield was up 11 points on 56.

Parkwood Academy also produced a new high of 51 per cent, up ten, while Sheffield Park continued its upward trajectory on 65, up four.