Reprieve for The Ridings as it triples success rate

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The Independent Online

The Ridings School, which was once described as the worst in Britain, was celebrating yesterday after more than tripling its GCSE success rate and saving itself from closure.

The comprehensive in Halifax, West Yorkshire, was one of 23 on the Government's "hit list" whose future depended on this year's results.

Ministers said that schools where fewer than 15 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to C grade GCSE passes in 2001, 2002 and 2003 would be closed, forced to merge or become a city academy, a new type of semi-independent school. The Ridings failed to reach the minimum in the past two years.

In 1996, the school closed because of unruly pupils and teachers threatened industrial action over the crisis. But this year, 25 per cent of pupils gained at least five good grades, the best results in the school's history. The figure last year was 7 per cent.

Anna White, the headteacher, said she was delighted. "We have all worked extremely hard," she said.

At least six other schools improved enough to remove the threat of closure. But at High View School in Derby, results fell from 12 to 7 per cent. Simon Tollervey, the headteacher, said: "I am very disappointed because the results do not reflect the hard work of the pupils and my colleagues. But Charles Clarke's [the Secretary of State for Education] hit list has not been near the top of my thoughts. Our focus has been to provide the best education for every pupil."

Elmhirst School in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, saw its results fall from 11 to 9 per cent. Eddie Needham, the headteacher, said that although the result was disappointing the figure masked many success stories. "We do not believe that these figures are the be-all and end-all of success. We have seen excellent improvements in the number of pupils getting A* to G passes this year."

Although results at Henry Mellish School in Nottingham improved from 11 to 13 per cent, they were not enough to remove it from the hit list.

Joan Young, the acting head, said that the modest improvement failed to tell the whole story. "A good number of our candidates have done very well and achieved seven, eight, or even nine good grades. But 14 per cent of this year's cohort joined the school during the GCSE course and, of those, almost half did non-GCSE vocational courses instead.''

At least five of the 23 schools have already opted to relaunch as city academies. A further five have decided to close or merge with other schools. These include William Crane School in Nottingham, which closed this summer but reported what could be the worst GCSE results yesterday after just one of its 75 pupils - 1.3 per cent - achieving five good passes.

David Miliband, minister for School Standards, congratulated The Ridings. He said: "It has been a huge challenge but the commitment from staff has been inspiring. I am delighted that the results are moving in the right direction.''