Grammar schools fail to improve basic skills

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Grammar schools and top comprehensives still need to improve their pupils' basic skills, despite a massive government drive to improve English and maths standards. Only a handful of grammar schools managed to get every pupil to pass GCSE English and maths, despite selecting students according to their academic ability at 11.

Only 45 of the grammar schools that returned their GCSE results to The Independent yesterday had scored five good passes including English and maths for every student.

No comprehensives reached this standard, despite the Government's attempts to improve poor English and maths. The Government introduced this measure because of fears that schools were neglecting the three Rs while boosting their league table positions with vocational qualifications worth several GCSEs.

Business leaders have repeatedly complained that school-leavers lack literacy and numeracy skills.

The Liberal Democrats said it was worrying that fewer than half of all 16-year-olds left school with five good GCSE passes including English and maths. Stephen Williams, the Liberal Democrats' schools spokesman, said yesterday: "Children and their teachers are to be congratulated. But the Government should be worried about overall performance.

"Fewer than half of 16-year-olds will leave compulsory education with five good passes including maths and English. As our economy demands higher skills for Britain to remain competitive, we must focus relentlessly on driving up standards."

The best-performing comprehensive this year was Thomas Telford school in Shropshire, ranked top for the eighth year running.

Although every pupil did not manage good GCSE passes in English and maths, they came very close. Every pupil achieved this standard in English for the first time and 96 per cent in maths. This year, all pupils had at least 11 good GCSE passes.

Sir Kevin Satchwell, the headteacher, said: "This is excellent news and an achievement which is particularly impressive for an all-ability group of Year 11 students. They have worked tremendously hard for these results and received superb support from their teachers and parents."

The top grammar school was Chelmsford County High School for Girls in Essex, where all students achieved at least five good passes, including English and maths. Pupils amassed an average of 733 GCSE points, equivalent to more than 12 A* grades per pupil.