By Paul Geater
Thursday, January 24, 2013
THE worrying state of education in Suffolk has been dealt another hammer blow by new Government figures showing the county’s high schools have dropped more than 20 places in the national league table.
The county’s schools have fallen to 142nd out of 151 local authorities across the country for GCSE results – last year it was 121st. That result caused concern because the previous year Suffolk had been ranked 112nd in the league tables.
The news comes just a month after it was revealed that the county’s primary schools had fallen to third from bottom of the league table for Key Stage Two (11 plus) SATS.
Officials at the county council said last year’s controversial decision to change the marking of GCSE exam papers hit Suffolk hard because 31 out of 37 schools used the AQA examination board, which –the authority said – was widely believed to have adjusted its grade boundaries most drastically.
However the independent exam board regulator Ofqual found that AQA was not out of line with other examination boards, stating in its August 2012 report: “we did not find anything substantively different here from our review of any other exam board” “
The figures show only 51% of Suffolk pupils achieved 5 A*-C grades including maths and English compared to the national average of 59%. Full details were being be released today.
While GCSE results were disappointing, A-level results showed an improvement on the previous year. The headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, Geoff Barton, contrasted the A-level results with those of GCSE students.
He said: “We achieved stunning A-level results again this year – among the best in Suffolk. So it defies belief that the same experienced and long-established team of teachers has seen their work at GCSE caught up in the GCSE English fiasco.
“Our results at GCSE cause us huge frustration and simply do not represent the achievement of our students and their teachers. Our campaign for justice on their behalf carries on.”
A statement from the county council said it was committed to helping schools raise attainment levels.
It has allocated additional funding to each school to enable extra revision sessions can be provided for students.
Each LEA school within Suffolk has received an extra £1,000 to help towards the cost of running revision classes.
Graham Newman, the county’s cabinet member for education and young people, said: “This summer headteachers and parents were rightly very concerned about the grades being awarded for GCSE English.
“As such I personally wrote to all our local MPs, OFQUAL, and the Parliamentary Select Committee urging them to consider the unfair shift in grade boundaries.
“The inconsistencies in grade boundaries caused a number of students to miss out on job, apprenticeship or further education opportunities as well as causing high levels of anxiety and stress for students and their parents.
“Now we are seeing what many considered an unfair decision to change grade boundaries reflecting negatively on the overall picture for Key Stage 4 (GCSE) results for schools across the county.
“We have a number of excellent schools within the county that have worked tirelessly to ensure their students receive the grades of which they are capable.
“The Key Stage 4 figures released today simply do not do those schools, and those students, justice.
“Our A Level results show how the grade boundary alteration has warped how our schools appear in the league tables.
“The same schools that have slipped down the GCSE league tables have done fantastically with their A Level results, where grade boundaries have not been changed at the last minute and the quite often the same teachers have been teaching both GCSE and A Level pupils.”
Another Suffolk headteacher, Hugh O’Neill, Head of St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds, has investigated thoroughly the impact of the grade boundary shift on his school’s results.
He said: “As everyone knows, many schools were badly affected by the controversial grading of GCSE English and English Language results in summer 2012.
“Our English results dropped from a record-breaking 90% A*-C pass rate 2011 to 63% in 2012. The 5A*-C pass rate including English and Maths dropped from 82% in 2011 to 56% in 2012.
“This shows how disastrous the fall in English results was on our overall performance measure.
“This was a very good group of students. Their scores in Maths, in Science and other subjects closely matched those of previous groups of students.
“But it is the English results that simply don’t add up.
“This matters to us as a school, but it matters most to a group of 19 students who we think should have obtained grade C and did not.
“If they had been in any other year, they would have passed at grade C. Their opportunities in education and training have been affected. That is the real message of the Performance Tables for 2012.”