'English BACC': Yorkshire grammar school celebrating Baccalaureate success

A GRAMMAR school in Yorkshire is celebrating having the highest level of pupils in the region achieving the new English Baccalaureate aimed at getting more people studying sciences and languages at GCSE.

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The Government announced late last year that the new qualification would be given to pupils who achieved five or more good GCSEs including English, maths, along with at least one science, one humanities subject and one language.

Tables published yesterday show that North Halifax Grammar had the highest level of students achieving the "English Bacc", in Yorkshire with 82 per cent of pupils achieving the necessary passes.

Graham Maslen, headteacher of the selective state school, said: "We have always believed in a broad curriculum. All the students are required to study English, maths, a modern foreign language, science, ICT and religious studies to full GCSEs.

"This has penalised the school in the past because other schools have allowed students to choose less challenging courses. All the students at North Halifax Grammar have to follow a demanding curriculum up to the age of 16. I agree with Michael Gove who said that the English Bacc could incentivise schools and students to follow the courses which best equip them, and us as a nation, to succeed."

The majority of the region's other strongest performers in a table measuring success at the English Baccalaureate were independent schools.

Bradford Grammar, Wakefield Girls, Bootham, Sheffield High, The Girls Grammar School at Bradford and Ampleforth College all feature in a table of the country's best 200 schools.

St Aidan's in Harrogate was the only comprehensive in the region to be ranked in a national league table of schools with the highest level of pupils passing the English Bacc.

Teaching unions have, however, criticised the Government for publishing tables based on the new qualification as it did not exist when pupils were sitting their exams last summer.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said: "The retrospective introduction of performance measures, relating to a qualification that is actually not in existence, will alienate the profession from an idea which could have had real merit if was introduced with engagement and time to plan.

"As it is, it just becomes another misleading and unhelpful league table.

Bishop Wordsworth's Grammar School in Salisbury had the highest level of students earning the English Bacc in the country as 98 per cent of its pupils achieved the measure.

Headmaster Stuart Smallwood said he was in favour of "the traditional approach" and that it was "probably right" that Mr Gove has introduced the baccalaureate.

But he acknowledged there had been some "disquiet" among head teachers about its introduction, which he said may not have been done in the best way.

He said: "It's a bit like asking you to take an exam syllabus and then saying the exam's changed. To be fair, schools should probably have been given warning so that they could, if they wanted, make any adjustments to their curriculum."