Grammar schools top tables for new ‘E-Bacc’

Head of St. Peter's School in York, Leo Winkley, centre, with students celebrating the school's success in GCSE exams. From left: Zara Gower, James Webster, Lucy Mahon, Mr. Winkley, Bradley Smith, Sophie Sweatland and David Cecil.
Head of St. Peter's School in York, Leo Winkley, centre, with students celebrating the school's success in GCSE exams. From left: Zara Gower, James Webster, Lucy Mahon, Mr. Winkley, Bradley Smith, Sophie Sweatland and David Cecil.
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THE HEAD of the Yorkshire school with the best English Baccalaureate scores in the region believes the performance measure will soon be used by universities and employers as way of finding the best candidates.

Almost nine out of 10 pupils at The Grammar School at Leeds achieved the grades needed to secure the E-Bacc at last summer’s GCSEs.

Tables published by the Department for Education show that 86 per cent of students at the private school received the E-Bacc.

This was the joint highest score in Yorkshire with Bradford Grammar School but The Grammar School at Leeds was ranked higher in the table as it had more students reach the standard.

The English Baccalaureate was introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2010 and used in league tables for the first time last year – even though it had been created after pupils had sat their GCSEs.

To earn the E-Bacc, pupils have to achieve at least six A* to C grades at GCSE including English, maths, two sciences, a modern language and either history of geography.

The Grammar School at Leeds’s principal, Michael Gibbons, said: “I think whether you like it or loathe it the E-Bacc is here to stay for the foreseeable future and schools will have to work with it. In future I can see universities and employers will take an increasing notice of it.”

Reacting to the news that the Grammar School at Leeds had the joint highest level of pupils achieving the E-Bacc in Yorkshire he said: “I am absolutely delighted for the students, their teachers and the parents who support them.

“What we try to do is offer a challenging curriculum with plenty of choice as well as offering a range of extra curricular activities.” Mr Gibbons said the school was proud that it had more than 100 pupils in its sixth form studying tougher subjects such as chemistry and maths and almost 100 doing physics. He said the school did not regard any of the E-Bacc subject areas as a particular strength of the school and said he was proud of all of them.

“We build our curriculum around a group of the core subjects, other schools might feel their students would benefit by sending them down alternative pathways and I certainly would not want to comment about that,” he added.

The Government created the baccalaureate to give extra weight to the subjects it sees as the core academic areas schools should focus on. This year’s tables show seven private schools from Yorkshire were in the top 200 in the country based on the number of pupils achieving this performance measure in last summer’s GCSEs.

The Grammar School at Leeds and Bradford Grammar had 86 per cent of students making the grade.

St Peter’s School in York had an E-Bacc score of 83 per cent, Birkdale School in Sheffield had 82 per cent make the grade, Sheffield High School for girls and Gateways School, near Leeds, had 74 per cent while the Girls’ Grammar School, Bradford has 73 per cent.

Selective grammar schools were the best performers in the state sector. North Halifax Grammar had the highest E-Bacc score among publicly-funded schools in the region with 71 per cent achieving the necessary passes.

It was followed by Skipton Girls’ High, Crossley Heath School in Halifax and Heckmondwike Grammar – which all select pupils on the grounds of ability. Harrogate had the best performing secondaries in the E-Bacc tables which do not select pupils based on their academic ability.

St Aidan’s, St John Fisher Catholic High and Harrogate Grammar were the highest ranked comprehensive schools in Yorkshire in the national tables published yesterday.

St Aidan’s had 60 per cent of pupils earn the E-Bacc, 53 per cent of pupils made the grade at St John Fisher and 48 per cent achieved it at Harrogate Grammar.

Nationally nearly one pupil in six achieved the E-Bacc.

However the same was true for only one in 25 poor youngsters, the Department for Education (DfE) said. Tables also reveal that less than half – 44 per cent – of teenagers considered to have high previous achievement were entered for all the E-Bacc subjects. Just over a third – 37.2 per cent – of these actually achieved the qualification.

In total, 23.7 per cent of all pupils were entered for all the E-Bacc subjects, with 17.6 per cent of all students achieving it.

The introduction of the E-Bacc into last year’s tables caused outrage as schools and students were being judged against a performance measure which did not exist when they sat their exams in 2010.

It also led to a Hull head teacher, Andrew Chubb, of the Archbishop Sentamu Academy, launching a campaign to “Build a better Baccalaureate” amid concerns that the existing E-Bacc was too narrow and had excluded subjects including arts, music and RE.