Star pupils make the GCSE grade

Patient progress helps banish the inner city blues
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The Independent Online
When a call came through from the local newspaper yesterday morning, the head teacher at Moseley School lost her temper. It was an innocent enough inquiry; the GCSE results were out and the reporter wanted to know if any pupils at the Birmingham mixed comprehensive had scored straight As. That's all. But Mary Miles felt he had missed the point entirely.

"We can't all have schools packed with A-starred children. That's just not a reality," said Mrs Miles. "That's why league tables are so soul destroying for teachers. Schools such as ours are compared with schools in leafy suburbs where their mother tongue is English and they're coming in the main from parents with educated backgrounds. Many of the parents of our students haven't actually had a formal education themselves."

This year is, nevertheless, a record year for Moseley. The number of pupils with five or more A-C grades is up by 6 per cent on last year, as is the number with five or more A-G grades. But most importantly, in Mrs Miles' eyes, the number leaving the school with no results at all has dropped by six per cent to one in 25. The national average is one in eight.

The teachers at Moseley are interested in the Gs and Us as well as the As - and Mrs Miles uses a the CV of a former pu- pil, Mohammed Hafeez, to ill- ustrate why. Four years ago, when Mohammed found himself with an E in GCSE English, U in maths, G in science and C in Urdu, his academic prospects were not exactly sparkling; but he stayed on at Moseley all the same. Two years later he left with 13 units from a BTEC course in business and finance - the equivalent of two A-levels - and is now flourishing in his second year at Birmingham University, reading law.

Such success stories may ex-plain why there was a notable absence of displays of emotion at the 1,250-strong inner-city comprehensive in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham yesterday. No scenes of devastation or shrieking hysteria. Instead, the pupils were reflecting quietly on their grades and, with the help of teachers, considering their futures.

The school hall where they had sat their exams two months earlier had been transformed into a careers advisory office. "One, two, three, four ..." a teacher counted up a pupil's passes. "Oh - and you got an A-star for Urdu. Well done. I should think you are pretty proud of yourself with that," she said. Fahir Afzal had passed six GCSEs. After taking advice from the teacher, Fahir settled for A-levels in business studies, media studies and chemistry. Azma Shain was a little disappointed. She had hoped for five GCSE passes at A-C grades, but had only managed four. "I wanted to do three A-levels. This means I might be able to do just two," said Azma, who got an A in drama, B in English literature, and Cs in English language and history. But with the philosophical approach which seems to pervade every corner of the school, she added: "I'm pleased I got four because a lot of my friends who were predicted five only got two. Of course I would have pref- erred another one, but I'm pleased overall. Any pass is a good pass."

One boy was in a class of his own. Fifteen-year-old Salil Danny, who came to Moseley for a year because his father was posted to Birmingham from India, was so advanced academically that he took his GCSEs a year early. He will return to Campion School, in Bhopal, in the autumn with As in economics and science, Bs in geography and maths, and a C in English. Salil said he was surprised at his success, but the work was not too much sweat.