Secondary School League Tables: Girls' schools are a class act

All-girls and Muslim schools have been singled out for adding the most value to education

An all-girls school which serves one of the most deprived communities in England has been ranked as the best state secondary in the country for "adding value" to children's education.

Pupils at Selly Park Technology College in Birmingham achieve nearly 10 per cent better than expected in GCSE exams - given girls' attainment aged 11 when they join the school.

Although pupils' achievement when they join the school is well below average, an impressive 84 per cent go on to achieve at least five good GCSE passes - well above the national average of 57.1 per cent.

The school's achievement is all the more outstanding as many of the area's brightest youngsters are creamed off by the local grammar schools. "We have seen a real story of improvement, but our children have stayed the same," says Michelle Magrs, Selly Park's headteacher. "We take the majority of our pupils from the inner ring of Birmingham so they are all from the most deprived wards in the area.

"We are located in quite a nice leafy area about a mile from the university but very few of our children come from the local area - they tend to go to the grammar schools.

"Many of our students are below average when they join the school. It takes them a while to catch up so our national test results for 14-year-olds aren't so high but then the girls just come on in leaps and bounds by the time they take GCSEs."

Many parents choose to send their daughters to Selly Park because they want them to have a single sex education - either on religious grounds or because they believe it offers the best educational opportunities. Many of the pupils are Muslim - most (around 60 per cent) come from Pakistani backgrounds, one in 10 are Afro-Caribbean and one in 10 are white.

The school has boosted achievement by introducing extra Saturday morning classes, homework clubs and regular days when normal lessons are put on hold to allow all pupils time to catch up on coursework.

Magrs, who has been head for three years but joined the school as an RE teacher in 1986, said it was hard to tell how important a role the school's single-sex status had played in its success. But she argued that the absence of boys in lessons ensured that girls did not get pushed to one side in lessons in information communication technology, one of the school's specialist areas.

"I think the girls get more access to ICT equipment because this is an all-girls school. Many of them have ICT equipment at home but their brothers tend to get on it first and don't want to share it with them."

Private Muslim girls' schools also dominated the top of the value-added tables. Three of the top 10 schools were fee-paying Muslim schools for girls. Coventry Muslim School, in the West Midlands, Islamiyah School, in Blackburn, Lancashire and Tayyibah Girls' School, in North London were all praised for boosting their pupils' results.

There are a growing number of both independent and maintained Islamic schools in the UK. Schools were initially established by the Muslim community in Britain with the first school, the London School of Islamics, founded in 1981. Now there are 140 but only five are state-funded. One of these, Feversham College in Bradford, was singled out as the second-best state secondary school in the country for adding "value" to children's education.

This summer the girls-only school saw its 16-year-olds gain the equivalent of six A* grade passes each at GCSE.

Tracy McNally, the headteacher, is delighted at the school's success. "Our added-value is high because we have a rigorous focus on teaching and learning and we monitor student progress very closely," she says. "Everyone associated with the College has high expectations for exceptional achievement, including the girls themselves. This has reaped rewards."

The school has an unusual history and has been a state school for just five years. Yet it has seen a dramatic upturn in its academic results since it joined the state sector. In 2002, just 53 per cent of pupils gained five or more good GCSE passes. But by this summer this had risen to 75 per cent.

Feversham opened as a tiny private school in 1984, after Muslims complained of a lack of girls-only education in Bradford. At first it charged families up to £700 a year and relied heavily on private donations. By the early Nineties, its governors decided it should become state-funded, to provide free single-sex education for Muslim girls. The government rejected the idea in 1995 but another application, five years later, succeeded.

Feversham is now jointly run by the local authority and the Muslim Association of Bradford.

Tahir Alam, education spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, welcomes the continuing success of Muslim schools, arguing that Muslim children do better in their own faith schools than in the mainstream state sector.

"Muslim schools have their own distinct ethos," he says. "They use the children's faith and heritage as primary motivators to provide the backdrop for their education and behaviour. This ethos is really consistent with the messages that children are getting at home so it is really a very coherent operation between the home and the school."

He believes that the growing push for private Muslim schools to join the state sector will have a big impact on raising standards for poorer students.

"It will help raise achievement for many sectors of the Muslim community. Many private Muslim schools are under-resourced and if they can be brought into the state sector this valuable experience can be extended to more children."

But although girls' schools topped the value-added tables, when it comes to raw exam results mixed schools were more likely to be the best this year. Nine out of the top 10 comprehensives for GCSE results were mixed, the other was a boys' school: The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial RC School, in West London.

The highest scoring school was Thomas Telford School, in Telford. All pupils at the City Technology College achieved at least five good GCSE passes, for the sixth year running. Thomas Telford was one of just three comprehensives which achieved this standard compared to 98 private schools and 43 state grammars.

Thomas Telford won the top ranking with an average point score per pupil of 771.7 - equivalent to an astonishing 13 A* grades per student.

Sir Kevin Satchwell, Thomas Telford's headteacher, rejects criticism that his results are artificially boosted by his policy of getting all pupils to take vocational courses worth four GCSEs and argues that the school's exceptional maths and English results prove that the school excels at the basics. "I have a terrific team of staff and hardworking students together with exceptional support from parents and Governors," he says. "This amounts to a powerful combination which has a potent effect upon standards. I am particularly delighted that 98 per cent of the students achieved A* to C pass rates in GCSE English and mathematics."

The school also broke new ground this summer by being ranked the best comprehensive for A-level results with an average point score of 405.1, or more than three A grades per student.

City Technology Colleges, dominated the top of the GCSE tables. CTCs are a forerunner of Labour's academies - independent state-funded schools created by the Conservatives sponsored by businesses and enjoying more freedoms than other state schools. Three of the top five schools were CTCs this year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Ashdown Group: Payroll Administrator - Buckinghamshire - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Finance Admin...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?