HAVING been chosen to star in the new Educating Yorkshire television series this year Thornhill Community Academy is set to become one of the most famous schools in the region. Now it can also lay claim to being the most improved.
The newly-converted academy in Dewsbury was the highest ranked school in the region in a national table measuring the performance of secondaries that have produced year-on-year improvements at GCSE since 2009.
The school, which used to be known as the Community Science College at Thornhill, had 29 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths, four years ago. Last summer 63 per cent of its GCSE year achieved it – an improvement of 34 percentage points over the four years.
This was greater than any other school in Yorkshire and the 25th best in the country.
Headteacher Jonny Mitchell said the improvement was down to the quality and commitment of the school’s teaching staff.
“We are a relatively small school so the teachers know the pupils,” he said. “They know their background and the challenges that they might face.
“The teachers here care about the young people, they talk to them and they want to see them do well.”
Four years ago the school was below the Government’s floor target of getting 30 per cent of pupils to achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths.
It became classed as a National Challenge school as part of Labour’s plan to raise standards.
Since then it has seen its GCSE success rate soar and is now well above the tougher 40 per cent target which all schools are expected to meet this year.
Mr Mitchell said there has been a sustained effort to ensure pupils were making progress “every single day” and he was very proud to see these results after his first year as head.
He added: “When our pupils come from primary school their results are below the national average so anything that is above the national average at GCSE represents good or outstanding progress for us.
“We always like to think that we can do better and we set ourselves ‘stretch targets’.
“We are confident that the group we have now in year 11 will be able to more or less match the performance of last year which was record-breaking for us.”
These students’ efforts will also be filmed for the new series of Educating Yorkshire which is set to hit television screens later this year.
The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this month that Thornhill Community Academy had been chosen as the location for a follow up to Channel Four’s hit series Educating Essex.
The original programme turned Passmores Academy’s head teacher Vic Goddard and his deputy Stephen Drew into primetime television stars.
Passmores, in Harlow, also features in the national league table published yesterday showing the 200 state schools with the biggest improvements in GCSE results since 2009.
The new programme will follow the same format as the original with eight episodes showing footage from the school together with interviews with members of staff and pupils.
Now, 64 fixed cameras have been installed around the classrooms, corridors and offices of the school.
Producers say they had been looking for schools in parts of the country which showed a different side of the UK to Educating Essex.
Filming began two weeks ago and will continue until March. The production team will record further interviews over the summer.
Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull was the second highest ranked school in the region having delivered major improvements in results over its first four years. The school opened in 2008 as a new academy replacing Archbishop Thurstan School.
In its first full year 28 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to C grades including English and maths. By last summer this had risen to 60 per cent - an increase of 32 percentage points over the four years.
The school’s principal Andrew Chubb said: “The single most important thing is the quality of our pastoral system. We have teaching staff and non-teaching staff whose sole focus is the wellbeing of the child and if our child has a problem they know where to turn.
“We have also worked hard to ensure that our pupils believe they can achieve the targets that we set them.
“There has been a focus on making sure we improve the quality of teaching and learning in the school. We also monitor student progress incredibly closely so that the moment they get off track we spot that. Without that close tracking of student progress it can be very easy for a student to get behind and it becomes increasingly difficult for them to be able to catch up.”