Best and worst schools grow further apart

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The worst education authority in England is Islington, north London, where Tony Blair, the Labour leader, lives, according to the Government's fourth annual league table published today.

Mr Blair sends his son out of the borough where only 17.4 per cent of pupils get five or more GCSE passes at A-C to a grant-maintained school in Hammersmith and Fulham.

The best authority is Kingston upon Thames where the figure for good GCSE passes was 55.5 per cent.

The top state comprehensive is the Liverpool Blue Coat School where 98 per cent of pupils got five or more good passes. At the worst three comprehensives, not a single pupil got five A-C passes. The average was 43.5 per cent.

The best state school overall is King Edward V1 grant maintained grammar school in Chelmsford, Essex, where the average A-level score was equivalent to just over three A grades.

The fee-paying King Edward V1 School for Girls in Birminghm is top overall with an average A-level point score of two As and two Bs.

The fourth annual school performance tables, costing pounds 1.5m, showed that the state school with the biggest improvement in GCSE results is Saint Francis Xavier in Richmond, North Yorkshire, where the percentage of pupils getting five or more A-C grades at GCSE rose from 29 per cent last year to 61 per cent this year.

John Rees, the deputy head, said: "We were shocked by last year's results. Staff were already working very hard but they gave up their lunch times to give tutorials to GCSE students."

The independent school with the biggest improvement was Trinity School, in Teignmouth, Devon, where pupils getting five or more A-C grades went up from 31 per cent to 71.

Lord Henley, Education minister, said the league tables would encourage competition and drive up standards: "In the continuing battle to inform parents and raise standards these tables represent a fourth consecutive victroy."

However, critics say the league tables encourage schools to concentrate on getting the maximum number of pupils through five GCSEs at top grades and are increasing polarisation, with a widening gap between pupils who do well and those who do badly.

While the proportion getting five A-C grades is up to 43.5 per cent this year from 43.3 per cent last year and 41.1 per cent the year before, those failing to get one pass is up from 7 per cent two years ago to 8.1 per cent.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "There is already evidence that the 'long tail of underperformance' will lengthen for those who can- not achieve pass grades. This would be a ... highly damaging consequence of league tables."

Headteachers criticise the way the tables are compiled. Bruce Douglas, principal of Branston Community College in Lincolnshire, said: "The results depend on the clientele. The tables amount to almost wilfully misleading ... by giving a raw score and calling it performance."

Ministers have commissioned work to compare a school's performance with its intake.

Full tables: Section Two

Top 10 most improved state schools

Biggest increase - 1994-95 - in percentage of pupils gaining five or more A-C grades at GCSE.

St Francis Xavier, Richmond, North Yorkshire 29-61

Neadswood School, Southampton 50-75

St Saviour's and St Olave's, London. 17-42

Trinity School, Belevedere, Kent. 11-35

Golborne High School, Warrington 21-45

The Warwick School, Redhill 35-58

Whitecross High School, Hereford 16-39

Samuel King's School, Alston 40-63

Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted 37-59

Filey School, Filey 27-49

Bottom 10 comprehensives

Percentage getting five or more GCSEs at A-C

Pope John Paul RC, Liverpool 2

South Halifax High School, Calderdale 2

Campion Boys', Liverpool 2

Lea Mason CofE School, Birmingham 2

Fairfax Community School, Bradford 2

Archbishop Tenison's, Lambeth 1

Battersea Technology College, Wandsworth 1

Benjamin Gott High School, Leeds O

Parkside School, Plymouth, Devon 0

Amy Johnson School, Hull, Humberside 0