School exam league tables: The comprehensive that's rated 'good' but isn't hitting the Government’s minimum target

Case Study

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The Independent Online

A comprehensive school rated as “good” by inspectors is languishing below the Government’s minimum target of 40 per cent of pupils getting five top grade passes at GCSE including maths and English.

King Richard School in Portsmouth is only there because of the grading controversy over last summer’s GCSE English exam.

Its pupils had been expected to achieve a 55 per cent success rate in terms of the numbers achieving five A* to C grade passes at GCSE including English and maths but - after the boundaries for a C grade pass were raised between the January and June sittings of the exam - the school only scored 38 per cent.

The school, a specialist arts college with more than 700 pupils, now joins 194 others on the list of those that failed to reach that target.  Schools on that list can be forced to become academies or even face closure.

Executive headteacher Brian McClarin said:  “The drop in our...figure is not the result of any weakness in our English teaching, which remains excellent, but from the re-grading of C grade boundaries.

“This has been a well-publicised national fiasco, a blatant attempt to manipulate figures without a shred of concern for the young people whose lives it has impacted on.”

He added that there had been a steady year on year improvement in GCSE results at the school before the grading crisis - and the number of pupils leaving the 11 to 16 school to continue in education rising from 40 per cent to 94 per cent.

In its report on the school, education standards watchdog Ofsted: “The achievement of the students is good...The quality of teaching is good.”

“The best teaching is usually seen in English, maths, science and the specialist subjects of dance and drama,” it added.

Adam Dare, the school’s headteacher, said:  “I think that having a respectable Ofsted report will mean that action won’t be taken.  There’s also still some way to go on the examination results.” The High Court is expected to rule later this month on a call for a judicial review from headteachers, schools and pupils of last year’s grading.

“I’ve actually got no objections to league tables,” he added.  “There is a lot of really excellent information in them and it seems to me just looking at one number doesn’t tell you how well a school is doing.

“I’m obviously bitterly disappointed that - in terms of the five GCSEs - we’re quite close to the bottom in Portsmouth but we show the best value for high ability students and the best value for low ability.”