Thousands still being let down by poor schools

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THOUSANDS of teenagers are still failing to get good GCSE results after being let down by under-performing schools, new league tables suggest.

Newly published statistics show that 107 secondaries in England did not reach tough government targets which ministers say are intended to raise standards.

Schools that fail to meet the strict thresholds have been warned they are at risk of closure or being taken over if they do not improve.

Every secondary school in England is expected to get at least 35 per cent of pupils achieving five A* to C grades including English and maths and see its pupils keep pace with the national average level of progress being made in English and maths between the age of 11 and 16.

The tables also suggest that hundreds of secondaries are failing their poorest pupils.

Just a third – 33.9 per cent of teenagers – from disadvantaged homes gained at least five Cs in their GCSEs last summer, including English and maths, compared to 58.2 per cent of all pupils attending state schools.

And while nearly one in six pupils nationally achieved the Government’s new English Baccalaureate, the same was true for only one in 25 poor youngsters. The E-Bacc is awarded to pupils who achieve at least six A* to C GCSE grades comprising English, maths, two sciences, a humanity – either history or geography – and a modern language.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “We should have high expectations for all children regardless of their circumstances. Yesterday’s figures reveal a shocking waste of talent in many schools across the country. All too often, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t given the same opportunities as their peers.

“But there are great examples of schools achieving the best for their disadvantaged pupils. If they can get it right, then so can all schools.”

The figures also show that in a small number of cases – 6.5 per cent of pupils – secondary schools have helped children below the expected standard at the end of primary school to achieve the expected standard at GCSE.

However, there were 8,600 pupils, 4.9 per cent, who were excelling at the end of primary school, who then failed to gain to five A* to C grades including English and maths according to the DfE.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg chose to praise results. He said: “It’s great to see many young people doing well. I’m particularly proud of the achievement of pupils in academies, which Labour set up, whose results have improved by nearly twice the level seen across all schools. However, these results show that the Government needs a clear plan to raise standards in all schools in England. While many pupils, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are not achieving their potential, the Government is promoting pet projects over real need.

“The Government needs to focus on the 3Rs as well. In the last term of a Labour Government, the numbers of pupils in all schools getting A*-C GCSE grades in English and maths alone rose from 46.8 per cent in 2006 to 54 per cent in 2010. But if the Government wants to promote English and maths across the education system it cannot simply focus its attention on the minority of academies and free schools, or the EBacc, which is only taken by around one in eight pupils.”

Education authorities across the region hailed their best ever results. A Wakefield Council spokesman said: “Figures show that 57.4 per cent of students have achieved five A* to Cs grades in subjects including English and Maths. This is an increase of 1.6 per cent on last year and is close to the national average of 58.2 per cent.”

Despite being ranked sixth from the bottom nationally Hull Council also saw grades rise. A spokeswoman said: “The figures confirm that 46.3 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths last year, an increase of 4.3 per cent from 2010.”

Coun Helene O’Mullane, Hull Council’s portfolio holder for Children’s Services, said: “Yet again this year we have seen a fantastic improvement in GCSE results across the city, and I’d like to thank all the students, teachers, school staff and families who have worked so hard to help our young people achieve their best.“

A Kirklees Council spokesman said the authority’s pupils had surpassed the national average GCSE pass rate for the first time.

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