Flagship academy celebrates sharp improvement in GCSE results

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The Independent Online

One of the Government’s flagship academies was celebrating a more than 500 per cent improvement in its GCSE results tonight.

Harefield Academy in Hillingdon, west London, has achieved its success as a result of a major shake-up of the school’s timetable.

This year it saw 45 per cent getting five A* to C grades including maths and English– up from only eight per cent when it was a struggling secondary school.

Lynn Gadd, the school’s headteacher, said: “We’re over the moon – although we hasd been expecting improvements as a result of the changes at the school.”

At Harefield, pupils start work on their GCSEs a year early - as a result of the school squeezing the first three years of the secondary school curriculum into just two.

“The pupils can either be fast-tracked to take their GCSEs in two years,” said Ms Gadd. “The gifted and talented pupils can take it early - and we can introduce more flexibility into the curriculum.

“it gives them more time to follow extra-curriclar activites - like sport in the third year.” The school specialises in sport and has strong links with neighbouring watford football club.

Many headteachers have argued that the curriculum for Key Stage Three (11 to 14-year-olds) is not demanding enough and could be squeezed into two years.

The decision by Schools Secretary Ed Balls to axe national curriculum tests for 14-year-olds would make that easier.

The success thast has followed Harefield’s decision is likely to give the green light to other schools to follow suit.

This year 71 per cent of all pupils achieved five A* to c grade passes - up 20 percentage points from 2008. The 45 per cent figure including maths and Englisdh represents a 16 percentage point rise from last year.

“We felt when we took over there was a potential to improve,” said Ms Gadd.

In this year’s GCSE, the top state school was Thomas Teflord in Shropshire – a comprehensive school which was one of the first City Technology Colleges to be established.

It achieved a record point score of 826 – the equivalent 14 A* grades for every pupil. It also had 99.4 per cent of its pupils achieving five A* to C grade passes including maths and English, another record for a non-selectiver school.

The school gained national fame when it became the first comprehensive in the country to gain 100 per cent success in getting pupils to obtain five A* to C grade passes – the former way schools were measured under the Government’s performance league tables.

The top performing grammar school was Invicta in Maidstone, Kent – just one point behind on 825.

Meanwhile, the Government revealed a dramatic reduction in the number of schools threatened with closure as a result of its policy of reviewing the future of all schools failing to get 30 per cent of pupils achieving five A* to C grade passes by 2010.

When the policy was first announced two years ago, there were 638 schools on the list. As a result of this year’s result, the number is down to 280.

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