'Losers' claim justifiable pride at progress: School League tables: Backlash follows release of results, published in a special 'Independent' supplement today

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The Independent Online
OAKFIELD School in Swindon came bottom of Wiltshire's comprehensives in last year's exam league tables, with only 7 per cent of its GCSE pupils gaining five or more A to C grades, writes Diana Hinds.

Andrew Fleet, the head teacher, is not expecting the school's position to be much different this year. 'Obviously, no one likes to be the bottom of anything and I would prefer to have been hidden somewhere in the middle,' he said.

But Mr Fleet maintains school morale has not been dented because Oakfield is making progress. 'We're not being complacent, but there has been a steady trend towards pupils achieving higher grades - a drift upwards from E, F and G grades to D, E and F grades. This isn't recognised by the league tables.'

Oakfield School (for 11 to 16-year- olds) draws its 412 pupils from an 'urban priority' area, with 60 per cent coming from one-parent families and 45 per cent receiving free school meals. More than 40 per cent of this year's intake had a reading age of less than nine. But in spite of the difficulties, the average number of GCSE passes per pupil (grade G and above) has increased from 3.9 in 1989 to 5.3 this year.

Mr Fleet is concerned, though, that the tables could put some parents off sending their children to Oakfield, particularly parents of more able children. He argues that the tables should include a 'value- added' element - measuring pupils' progress, rather than simply recording raw results.

Mike Woodman, head of the arts faculty, said the results did put teachers on the defensive but that they were not dispirited because they believed the school was doing its best for all its pupils and providing a secure, consistent environment which many of them lacked at home.

About 60 per cent of Oakfield pupils go on to sixth-form or further education colleges and most succeed in getting the A to C GCSE grades that eluded them at school. 'I get a real buzz when I see the results from the colleges,' Nicola Gregson, head of humanities, said. Pupils said they liked Oakfield because it was small and friendly. Cheryl Wales, 14, who hopes to train to be a vet, said: 'League tables don't matter, we're still getting the education we want.'

(Photograph omitted)