Mr Mitchell fears reforms are hurting schools in deprived areas

THE head teacher from the Educating Yorkshire TV series has said he fears the Government’s GCSE reforms could hurt schools with a higher number of pupils on the C/D borderline.

Jonny Mitchell and students being filmed today.
Jonny Mitchell and students being filmed today.

Jonny Mitchell, head at Thornhill Community Academy, near Dewsbury has seen the school’s five A* to C including English and maths benchmark figure fall to below 50 per cent as it emerged that there had been one of the biggest drops in English results in the qualification’s history.

Nationally the proportion of GCSEs awarded a C or higher across all subjects has risen but English has declined sharply and there were fears that major reforms of the qualification had hit some schools very heavily.

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Mr Mitchell was speaking ahead of his school hitting the small screen again tonight as Channel Four broadcast Educating Yorkshire One Year On.

He said that although the school had celebrated top performances among its most able students those on the C/D borderline had done less well than expected - especially in English.

This year a series of exam reforms are thought to have affected GCSE grades.

The Government’s decision to ensure only a teenager’s first attempt at an exam would count in school league tables has hit early and multiple entries. There has also been less coursework with a move towards a more linear qualification.

Mr Mitchell said: “We took the decision not to enter the majority of our pupils early. We did what the Government wanted us to do. When I look at the results we have I think these are similar to what we would have banked in previous years by putting pupils in early and then we would have been able to see if more students could get the grade they needed in the summer.”

He said that schools which used early entry were typically those with more pupils on the C/D borderline and those serving more deprived communities.

Results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed a sharp drop in English grades, with 61.7 per cent of entries scoring A* to C, down 1.9 percentage points from last summer.

Mr Mitchell said: “Two per cent might sound like a small figure but in this context it is huge. I think it will have affected a lot of schools benchmark figures.”

In the past 12 months Mr Mitchell has become one of the most famous teachers in the country. The Educating Yorkshire series filming life inside Thornhill Community Academy has been hailed as a massive success, bringing in audiences of more than three million, winning a string of television awards and also helping to attract more pupils to the school. Mr Mitchell and other teachers from the series such as Matthew Burton and Michael Steer have since appeared in various TV quiz and game shows raising money for charity as celebrities.

Tonight Educating Yorkshire One Year On was aired allowing viewers to find out what some of the stars of the original series have been doing since the show was first broadcast.

Cameras also visited the school today for results morning to see how pupils had fared.

Mr Mitchell said he had no regrets about the series which had been brilliant for the school but he added that it was time to “step out of the limelight.”

He said: “In many ways it seems like a long time ago already. It is more than two years ago since we were first approached and formed a relationship with the production company and the filming was first done at the start of 2013. It has been great. I have no regrets about it and it has given us lots of us experiences we won’t forget but I think now is the time to pass the baton on to Frederick Bremer School as the series goes down to the East End [of London]. I think we have felt that it is time to step out of the limelight and get back down to business, as we have been doing, of ensuring we our educating our kids so they leave school as good young people and with the qualifications they need.”

Success stories on exams day for Thornhill Community Academy today included Judith Webster and Amaarah Shaikh who achieved 11 A* or A GCSE grades across all their subjects and year eight pupil Mia Greenlees-Smith who was entered for her French GCSE at just 12 year old and achieved an A* grade.

She helped the school to achieve an 88 per cent rate of good grades in French.

There was also an 85 per cent success rate in Spanish - both of these figures were significantly up on previous years.