Essex GSCE students above UK average in new league tables

Saffron Walden County High School. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Saffron Walden County High School. Picture: SaffronPhoto - Credit: Archant

Essex GCSE students developed better on average than their counterparts in the UK according to new league tables published last week.

The county’s pupils achieved a progress 8 score of 0 – meaning students progressed as expected from their attainment level at the beginning of secondary school until taking their GCSEs.

A positive score, which reflects higher progress, was achieved by Saffron Walden County High and Forest Hall School in Uttlesford.

Ray Gooding, county councillor for education, said: “I am delighted to see the county’s secondary schools continuing to perform exceptionally well.

“We recognise the introduction of new GCSE measures has presented schools with an additional challenge and I am proud of what teachers and pupils in Essex have achieved.

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“As a council, we remain committed to ensuring pupils receive the best possible education and we look forward to continuing to work closely with schools in the future.”

Caroline Derbyshire, head at Saffron Walden County High, said she was delighted with the school’s figures but believes the measurement system has its flaws.

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She said: “From a County High point of view, we are obviously very pleased to be well above average in the results, but I would like to see a fairer system.

“I think it’s unfair on the schools in more challenging areas, but then I suppose you could argue that with the old five A*-C model. Those schools who receive a very able cohort are only going to see greater attainment.

“Are the scores more confusing for parents? I would say yes, and I still think parents need to use their intuition when choosing a school for their child.

“I would encourage parents to visit schools and get an idea of the types of things that go on that will suit their child.”

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) also expressed concerns about the measurement system.

Jerry Glazier, national NUT member for Essex, said: “When the government announced Attainment 8 we did express grave concerns about the impact it would have for schools and we feel it will not have the impact the government think it will do.

“It focuses on only eight subjects, which could impact the schools’ ability to provide for artistic subjects – the NUT want a broad and balanced curriculum which will allow pupils to keep their options open for as long as possible.

“That is our big concern that it will narrow the field for many students who will be detrimentally affected, who will feel their progress is less than it actually is. It could have a negative impact on the outcome for students, as it instils a very heavy impression on maths and English but all subjects are important for a balanced curriculum. Schools are being judged on Progress 8 rather than how they provide for the needs of their pupils or the environment the school provides or the ethos of the school, which I think is very important. It’s quite dangerous for people to judge a school that way.”

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