Grammars cast shadow over the 'worst performer'

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The Independent Online

The first sentence of the inspectors' report on Temple - the school which comes bottom of today's new-style exam league table highlighting performance in maths and English - might come as a surprise.

"This is an improving school that provides a satisfactory quality of education," Ofsted, the education standards watchdog intones.

But the clue is in the preamble to the report, which says: "Eleven-plus tests cream away a very large number of higher attaining students into the local grammar schools."

Neil McAree, the headteacher, said he is disappointed with the school's "dreadfully low" score in the new league table. He has put new measures into force including mentoring the 660 boys and monitoring their performance throughout their school life - to try to ensure a better exam performance this year.

The school is also considering joining the Government's academy programme which aims to transform schools with sponsorship from private firms. Becoming an academy would at least would help provide new school buildings.

Ofsted said of its present site: "Overall the school's accommodation is unsatisfactory... The start of lessons is almost always ragged with boys arriving up to ten minutes late and this is in part caused by the physical layout of the site.

"The flaking paint, rotting timberwork, flooded rooftops and ingrained dirt on this site send out strongly negative signals about the students' entitlement and worth."

One problem that academy status will not solve is the loss of the area's brightest pupils to grammar schools. That, Ofsted says, has led to pupils arriving at the school performing at a far lower level than the national average. "The main weakness on entry to the school is the students' very poor literacy skills," the report said. "Almost half the school population has special educational needs, which is three times higher than the national average."

The ten worst

1 Temple, Strood, Kent (2%)

2= Oldborough Manor, Maidstone, Kent; St Luke's C of E, Southsea, Hants (3%)

4= Lafford High, Lincoln; The Ridings, Calderdale; River Leen, Nottingham (4%)

7= Skerton Community High, Lancaster; Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate, Kent (5%)

9= Oak Farm Community School, Farnborough, Hants; Parkside, Plymouth; Sir Henry Cooper, Hull (6%)

* Schools with the worst performance in terms of percentage of pupils getting five A* to C grade passes at GCSE including maths and English

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