SUFFOLK’S schools continue to perform poorly at GCSE level, despite showing a 3% improvement on last year’s performance.

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The Department for Education publishes its Key Stage Four league tables today and Suffolk is ranked 121st out of 152 local authorities – a drop of nine places from 112th the previous year and once again below Essex, in 72nd place, and Norfolk, which was 115th in the table.

However, the proportion of Suffolk pupils achieving five GCSE grades at A* to C including English and maths has now gone up by 6% in two years, but the county’s schools are still struggling to keep up with the national average.

Across the county 54.7% of pupils scored the required five grades, including English and maths, which was up from 51.7% the year before. The national average was 58.9%.

The best performing school in Suffolk is Ipswich School, while the top state school is St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds.

The A-level achievements rate Suffolk as the 59th best performing authority, while Essex is ranked 25th and Norfolk 103rd.

Graham Newman, Suffolk’s head of education, said he was encouraged by the improvement from the previous year’s grades, but acknowledged that there was still plenty progress to be made.

Mr Newman also claimed the figures once again reinforced the view that the authority was right to pursue the school organisation review and change from three tier to a country-wide two tier system.

He said: “There are some bits of good news – we don’t have any maintained secondary schools in Suffolk below the floor target with English and maths.

“We’ve got to raise our game for Suffolk really. It’s a bit wider than just the schools.

“The schools organisation review is one of the things we are doing which will change the education in the county for the better. We want to do that and know that this time there has been 3% less achievement in the three tier schools than in two tier.”

However, Graham White, Suffolk NUT county secretary said the overall poor performance had nothing to do with the school organisation review and that the money would have been better spent in the classroom.

He said: “It’s dreadful – I think we have to look at the causes. Suffolk County Council can’t turn around and say ‘if we had a two-tier system this would not be a problem’ because frankly that’s rubbish.

“It’s the authority that is causing problems. We have to look at what we can do to improve the overall performance of schools. It needs to be much better and we need to spend money in schools.”

Essex County Council’s Stephen Castle, cabinet member for education, welcomed his county’s figures.

He said: “The updated league tables reflect the hard work and commitment of staff and students in Essex and I would like to congratulate all schools and students for their efforts.”

Colchester County High School for Girls was the third best in the country for all types of schools, ranked by the percentage of candidates gaining at least five A* to C-grades. Chelmsford County High School for Girls and Colchester Royal Grammar School also made the top 200.

Three Colchester schools were among the top 200 state schools, both selective and non-selective, by the percentage of pupils achieving the English Baccalaureate.

These were King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, Colchester Royal Grammar School and Colchester County High School for Girls.

Among the schools to show at least a 5% rise in the number of candidates getting five A* to C grades at GCSE was Stowmarket High School.

Headteacher Keith Penn said: “We were really pleased, the students did very well last summer and we were delighted with that.

“Both students at GCSE and A-level got the highest marks ever but the individual performance of students is more important than the league table.”

Two Ipswich Schools and another from Colchester found themselves ranked in the bottom 200 across the country in terms of the percentage of candidates getting at least five A* to C-grades in subjects including English and maths.

Thurleston High School and Holywells High School both saw the average GCSE points per candidate go up, but remain among the poorest-performing schools at Key Stage Four in the country.

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