City academy achieves record GCSE results on its own terms


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The Independent Online

An academy which replaced one of the worst-performing schools in the country was celebrating record GCSE results last night after scrapping the traditional three-term year.

One of the first acts of Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham after taking over the former Forest School was to introduce a five-term year and bring pupils back early from summer holidays. The pupils will start their new school year on Tuesday and will have five eight-week terms with a two-week break between each. Most schools do not return until at least a week later.

Yesterday the school recorded its best GCSE results with 39 per cent getting five A* to C grade passes in subjects including maths and English – three percentage points above last year's figure. In total, 74 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to C grade passes, compared with just 8 per cent in 2001 at the failing school it replaced.

Nigel Akers, the vice-principal in charge of standards at the college, said the shorter holidays had helped to reduce the amount pupils forgot. "It is an educational advantage not giving them such a long summer holiday," said Mr Akers. A decade ago, local authorities around the country were agreed on a move to replace the traditional three-term year with a five-term year after research showed children needed catch-up classes at the start of the new school year to remind them of what they had learnt.

The move floundered, though, with teachers' leaders opposing the loss of their long summer break. The then general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, Nigel de Gruchy, described it as the "last perk" of the teaching profession. Next year, though, following Djanogly's success, all schools in Nottingham will move to a five-term year .

Mr Akers said the academy had also introduced a scheme allowing pupils to start studying for their GCSE courses early – pioneered at neighbouring Djanogly City Technology College which has now merged with the former school. The change gives pupils a three-year run-in to taking the exam. "As an academy we were able to do this," said Mr Akers.

Meanwhile, another school was celebrating a significant improvement in results after sending its teachers to pupils' homes during revision week to drag them out of bed and take them into school. Ormiston Victory Academy in Norwich saw 62 per cent of its pupils obtain five A* to C grades including in maths and English – compared with just 38 per cent last year at its predecessor school, Costessey High School, which had twice failed inspections. Headteacher Rachel de Souza said: "We leave no stone unturned in improving performance."

GCSEs in brief

Maths as easy as 1,2,3,4,5,6 for girl

A six-year-old girl from east London was celebrating being one of the youngest students to pass a GCSE maths exam. Deborah Thorpe, of Chadwell Heath, achieved an E grade after taking extra lessons in the subject on Saturday mornings. However Deborah, who wants to become a doctor, said she was not sure whether she would take any more exams next year. She is a pupil at St Bede's Catholic primary school.

A grade for nine-year-old

Nine-year-old Ibraheem Bin-Suhayl, from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, got an A grade in maths. He first took the exam in 2009 and got a B.

Top marks for Mandarin class

All 24 pupils at Heathfield School in Pinner, north-west London, who sat GCSEs in Mandarin Chinese obtained at least an A, and 20 of them obtained an A*. Several of the girls, who were the first cohort in the school to take the exam, plan to continue with the subject at AS-level. All pupils at the school study three languages – Chinese, French and Spanish – from the time they arrive at 11. They continue with two up to GCSE level.

Obama's message of hope for Hackney girl

A teenager who feared she would drop out of school is now planning to become a forensic scientist after Michelle Obama inspired her to continue with her studies. Talitha Lewis, 16, from Hackney, east London, is a pupil at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in Islington – which was visited by Mrs Obama two years ago. Talitha got 11 GCSEs at grade C or above and said: "When I met her, I was thinking I don't want to go to college because what's the point?" When she said, 'You're in charge of your own life and it's up to you what happens next,' I thought, 'Right, I'll stay in school, go to college, do what I can."

Gold-medal swimmer celebrates passing 9 GCSEs

Double Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds was celebrating passing nine GCSEs last night. She won gold in the100m and 400m freestyle swimming in 2008 and fitted her training around her studies. Ellie, who now lives in Swansea, got 4 Bs, 4Cs and a D.