Secondary school tables: 'Change of ethos' turns around second-worst school in Britain

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The Independent Online

A school that three years ago was ranked the second-worst in the country was named today as one of the most improved secondary schools in Britain.

The Coteland's School, in Ruskington, Lincolnshire, was one of three schools to show the greatest improvement in GCSE results, which have gone up by 36 percentage points since 1998. The village school has come a long way since it was threatened with closure in 1993 after parents began sending children to other schools. At one point, the secondary modern was less than half full, with only 170 pupils.

In 1998 it recorded the second-worst results in Britain when only 2 per cent of pupils achieved five good (A* to C) GCSE passes. This year, 38 per cent of 16-year-olds achieved this standard.

David Veal, headteacher since 1994, believes the fruits of seven years' work are only now being seen. "It takes time for exam results to improve," he said. "It is about changing the ethos of the school so parents can be confident it is somewhere pupils can learn. We have always had a reputation as a caring school but now parents can see that everyone can come here and succeed."

The secondary modern school serves the 6,000-strong village of Ruskington but loses many bright children to grammar schools in neighbouring Sleaford. Parents' renewed confidence in the school had given it a more academic intake, with more children who could have won grammar school places enrolled at Coteland's.

Harris City Technology College in Croydon, south London, and Aldercar Community School in Derbyshire share top ranking with Coteland's. The school and college – a state school founded in 1990 with the help of a £1.25m donation by the carpet magnate Lord Harris of Peckham – both saw a 36 percentage point rise. The college also topped the league tables in 1997.

Carol Bates, the college principal, credited the school's success to her campaign to boost the achievement of boys.