East Suffolk: Headteachers criticise changes to exam system after majority of schools see GCSE results fall
14:55 21 August 2014
GCSE results fell at the majority of schools in the coastal areas of east Suffolk – despite a slight rise reported across the county, it emerged today.
Nine out of 15 schools in east Suffolk, excluding the Ipswich area, reported an annual fall in the proportion of students achieving five A*-C grades, including English and maths.
Five saw a drop of at least 10 percentage points. The news prompted some headteachers to criticise the revamped exam system, with at least two challenges over English results already submitted.
It comes on the day the EADT reported the number of fines issued to parents in Suffolk for allowing their children to miss school has risen by almost 500% in the last five years.
But in a boost to the region, five schools also reported a rise in their results – including a 25 percentage point surge at Hadleigh High School.
Other schools also rewrote their history books with promising results as students and teachers were praised in the face of new “volatile” exam policies which significantly affected the way pupils sat exams.
It was also announced that, according to provisional results, 56% students in Suffolk attained five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths – an annual rise of 1%.
It comes after former education secretary Michael Gove announced a “first grade counts” rule last autumn, meaning results from retaken GCSE exams no longer contribute towards school performance measures.
Meanwhile, the chance to take exams earlier in the academic year was also curbed by the scrapping of modular assessment and a switch to end-of-course GCSE exams.
Andrew Hine, headteacher of Benjamin Britten High School in Lowestoft, said the school has submitted a challenge over what he claims were inaccurate English results.
Some 36% of the school’s pupils achieved five A*-C grades, including English and maths, down from 47% last year.
It follows a huge row in 2012 when a toughened up English GCSE grading system led to a number of schools and local councils challenging results through the High Court.
For English students this year, coursework was cut and a greater emphasis was placed on the end-of-year exams. State schools are especially fearful of poor English results as slipping below the Government’s official floor targets raises the prospect of a takeover.
Mr Hine said: “English results have been depressed by the exam board moderation and grade boundary setting process – we have not entered students early for English for a number of years.
“We do not believe we have seen an accurate reflection of our students’ abilities in English this year and have already commenced a challenge to the marks awarded by the exam board.”
Meanwhile, Felixstowe Academy principal Andrew Salter said the school will be resubmitting the English GCSE coursework for the whole year group for remarking.
He said the final adjusted results, which had been independently marked and graded, were lowered across the year group, and did not reflect the strong grades achieved through examinations.
As a result, 58% of students gained grades A*-C in English – though the academy believes that following the resubmission of coursework, this figure will improve. Overall, 43% of students gained five or more A*-C grades including English and maths – the same as last year.
Catherine Wiltshire, acting headteacher at Bungay High School, where 46% of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths – down from 59% last year – echoed their concerns.
She said: “Our headline figures have been negatively affected by the changes in the way in which we are permitted to report results and the increased emphasis on terminal examinations. We offer our students a wide range of courses and some of these don’t count in the statistics. Thus we have many students who are individually very happy with their results but whose results are not included in our totals.”
But Hadleigh High School celebrated its best ever GCSE results. Some 69% of students gained five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. This is a staggering increase from 44% last year.
One in every four pupils also achieved five or more A/A* grades.
Caroline Gibson, headteacher, said: “We are absolutely delighted that all the efforts made by pupils and staff have paid off in a time where examinations are in a state of constant flux.
“These successful outcomes, alongside the effective skills for learning we value and develop, will place our pupils in a strong position for the next phase of their learning.”
Sir John Leman High School, in Beccles, recorded its best ever results for the second year running after 63% of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. This broke the previous record of 57% from last year.
Jeremy Rowe, headteacher, said he was “thrilled”, adding: “Following on from the success of our students gaining places at Cambridge last week, we are delighted that five of our GCSE students obtained 10 or more A* grades.”
At Farlingaye High School, in Woodbridge, just over two thirds (69%) of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. This was down 0.5 percentage points on last year, although the school said this was “well above” the target set.
Headteacher Sue Hargadon said she was “delighted” at the results.
She said: “This is our second best set of results, despite all the national predictions that GCSE results would drop this year.
“An astonishing 13% of students achieved at least 10 A*/A grades.”
At Thomas Mills High School, 71% of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. This is down from 82% last year, when the school celebrated its best ever results.
Headteacher Philip Hurst said: “This is a very pleasing set of results, demonstrating that the pupils make excellent progress in their time here. The results are very much in line with expectations.”
At Debenham High School, some 70% of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. This is down from last year’s record-breaking 80% score.
Headteacher Julia Upton said: “In a time of continued changes to GCSE syllabi and the make up of examinations, students at Debenham High School continue to prove that dedicated, knowledgeable and supportive teachers along with hard work are the key ingredients for success.”
At Stradbroke High School, some 56% of pupils achieved five A*-C grades, including English and maths. This is down from 60% last year, which was the school’s best ever results.
Andrew Bloom, headteacher, said; “We are delighted to announce another set of excellent results this year. The vast majority of our pupils have either met or exceeded expectations, reflecting their hard work and effort.”
At Hartismere School, in Eye, a total of 72% students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths.
It was 65% last year, and headmaster James McAtear said: “These results are a testimony to the hard work of all out staff, governors and students and to the support given to them by their parents.”
At Stowmarket High School, some 55% of entries achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. It was 54% last year.
Headteacher Keith Penn said he was “delighted”, adding: “Students have achieved the second highest set of scores the school has ever had, in a year where the press has reported a significant fall nationally because of changes in the list of subjects which are allowed to count towards a schools’ results.”
At Stowupland High School, 58% of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. Last year’s results were not reported.
Headteacher Karen Grimes said: “This is an amazing achievement.
“In the all-important core subjects, maths has secured an A*-C pass rate of over 71% and English has also achieved over 71% despite the loss of speaking and listening within the GCSE examination.”
At Woodbridge School, some 96% of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. It was 99% last year.
Headmaster Neil Tetley said: “Our grades were, once again, absolutely superb and students should be congratulated on all their hard work.
“Over a third of candidates achieved straight A*s and As.”
At Saint Felix School in Southwold, 93% of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. This is up from 90% last year.
Headmistress Fran D’Alcorn said: “Our results are exceptionally pleasing and demonstrate the high levels achieved by all of our students.”
At Finborough School, some 68% of students achieved five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. It was 77% last year.
Framlingham College did not submit their results.