Huge gap between best and worst schools

THE widening gap between Essex's secondary schools has been laid bare in Government league tables as the county council appeared vindicated in its controversial decision to close two of the worst performers.

THE widening gap between Essex's secondary schools has been laid bare in Government league tables as the county council appeared vindicated in its controversial decision to close two of the worst performers.

Alderman Blaxill School in Colchester and Bishops Park College in Clacton have been earmarked for closure and both have been named amongst the worst 200 schools in the country.

This was in stark contrast to table toppers Chelmsford County High School for Girls which was named as the best school in the country for GCSE results with 100% of pupils gaining five A*-C grades.

Colchester's Royal Grammar School was also highlighted for being the top school in the country for A levels as well as being in the top 200 schools in the country.

Colchester County High School for Girls and King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford were also all rated in the top 200 in the country.

Last night the Essex County Council praised its schools and welcomed the “big strides” that had been made in the last four years.

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Tracey Chapman, Cabinet Member for Schools, Children and Families, said: “I am delighted to see that our secondary schools are doing well.

“There has been considerable improvement once again in GCSE results, with a two per cent increase in the number of students achieving 5+ A*-Cs including English and maths.

“The county has made big strides in this area over the last four years and at 47.2 per cent is now ahead of the 46.7 per cent national average for students at the end of key stage four.

“The county has also recorded an improvement in the overall percentage of students achieving 5+ A*-Cs, which is keeping pace with the national average.

“For A and AS Levels, we are well ahead of the national average in terms of points per students, with Essex candidates recording an average 756.9, compared to 731.1 nationally.

“We will continue to work in partnership with our schools to build on these results in the future. These achievements are a credit to all teachers and students and I send my congratulations to them.”

But Mrs Chapman added that the results lent weight to the decision to close both the two failing schools along with Thomas Lord Audley school which is also in Colchester.

Plans were revealed last year to shut Bishops Park College and also replace Thomas Lord Audley and Alderman Blaxill with an academy on the Thomas Lord Audley site in Monkwick.

Mrs Chapman said: “The results at the school lend weight to the county council's intention to reverse the situation in South Colchester.

“I am determined to ensure that the children have every opportunity to get the best out of their education. I hope that parents and the community will join with us and support our efforts.”

James Sadler, a member of the parents' group campaigning against the closure of Alderman Blaxill, said the result was “sad but not entirely surprising.”

“The turmoil at the school has not been helped by Essex County Council,” said Mr Sadler.

“There is always the promise of extra funds (for schools in special measures) but it needs more than just a bit of money and someone popping by a bit more frequently.

“This is a reflection of how some things just aren't working.”

He called the plans for an academy, which would see Alderman Blaxill and a second failing Colchester school Thomas Lord Audley amalgamated, “a flawed system and a flawed plan.”

Nicole Chapman, headteacher at Chelmsford County High School for Girls, said: “We are delighted with the news that this year's outstanding results again put us so high in the Government's league tables and closely follow our recent designation by OFSTED as an “outstanding” school.

“Our students arrive having shown their intelligence and we are very pleased that they continue to exceed the expected progress at all key stages.

“Working with highly intelligent like-minded and enthusiastic peers obviously has a very positive effect on their development.

“Our high calibre staff ensure outstanding teaching and learning opportunities for all students who thrive given the broad curriculum and extensive enrichment programme we provide.

“Our excellent pastoral support ensures all students achieve their potential.”

Colchester Royal Grammar School headteacher Ken Jenkinson said he was “delighted” the school had done so well.

He said: “I am delighted with the national recognition.

“The sixth form is our flagship and is going from strength to strength.

“This particular year group also secured 31 places at Oxbridge, which was a record at the school.

“We have bright and ambitious students, a dedicated and expert staff and supportive parents: with these ingredients the recipe of success is relatively straightforward.”

He added: “It has been a very good year for CRGS because all the examination groups at the school surpassed the achievements of their predecessors, and CRGS was judged outstanding in every respect by OFSTED following the inspection in November.”

Elizabeth Ward, headteacher of Colchester County High School for Girls, said: “It is pleasing to see that our policy of focusing on the education of the whole student and thereby motivating them to enjoy their learning produces consistently excellent results.”

One successful school missed out in recognition in the league tables after opting to put students in for an international GCSE which was not recognised in the league tables - meaning technically no student passed five GCSE at A8-C grade including maths and English.

Felsted School was listed as achieving 0% in the table because of the anomaly but headteacher Stephen Roberts said all but two of the students had got C grade or above in the international GCSE and added: “Felsted pupils again did creditably in their summer exams and it remains a shame that the Government tables do not reflect properly their achievements.”