North Essex school tops national league table as county’s performance slips

Students at the Colchester Royal Grammar School, Dan Green, Francesca Tindall, Emma Line and Joe Lis

Students at the Colchester Royal Grammar School, Dan Green, Francesca Tindall, Emma Line and Joe Lisney are celebrating coming in top in league tables. - Credit: Su Anderson

Staff and pupils at Colchester Royal Grammar School are celebrating as the school topped the national league table for its A-level results.

Mike Imber, Jouja Maamri, Jem Moore, Emily Hart, Oliver Ryan and Rob Clarke are a few of the top sco

Mike Imber, Jouja Maamri, Jem Moore, Emily Hart, Oliver Ryan and Rob Clarke are a few of the top scoring A-level students at Colchester Sixth Form College on Thursday, August 14 2014. - Credit: Su Anderson

It achieved the best valued-added measure in the country, which recognises when pupils attain higher than expected grades, narrowly beating Colchester County High School for Girls by one point.

Gillian Marshall, headteacher at Colchester County High School for Girls, said: “The thing that pleases us most other than the outstanding success if the value added measure, which shows children don’t just come in bright and go out bright, we do so much more than that.

“A big thank you has to go to the staff, students, governors and parents, and it is a pleasure and a privilege to be at this school.”

Essex as a whole ranked 15th in local authorities for A-level results.

Top A-level Scorers at Colchester County High School for Girls Natasha Ormerod, Darcy Levison, Victo

Top A-level Scorers at Colchester County High School for Girls Natasha Ormerod, Darcy Levison, Victoria Bowden, Ellie Tripp and Duleny Herath hold up their results on Thursday August 14 2014. - Credit: Su Anderson

However at GCSE level the wider picture across Essex was not one of success.

Overall in the county just 56.5% of pupils achieved five or more A*-C grades including English and Maths, down on 60.5% the previous year and 0.1% below the national average.

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A number of schools in north Essex fell below this average, with Alderman Blaxill attaining just 20% – though it had a small cohort size as it shut in the summer.

This decline in standards reflects the national picture, which some are blaming on a change in the way the government measures the results.

Barry Hersom, headteacher at the Colchester Academy.

Barry Hersom, headteacher at the Colchester Academy. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

From this year only a pupil’s first exam take counts in league tables, meaning re-sits are excluded, and a more rigorous measure of exams is used – meaning schools which use the international GCSE scored particularly badly in the tables.

In English, 72.8% of pupils made the expected level of progress between key stage two and key stage four, above the national average of 71.6%, while in maths 65.5% made expected progress in line with the national average.

Barry Hersom, headteacher at the Colchester Academy, said: “Two changes are really damaging. One is the children only get one chance.

“I can understand that because some people would do exams over and over again. But to only have one chance, when your entire future depends on it, is not good – it is damaging to the children.

“It does not help children to who lack confidence. We find putting them in at the end of year 10 for one and they do well, it gives them the confidence to do well in all of their exams, or if they don’t they can learn and put more effort in.

“The other problem is there are children this year who didn’t get the five A*-C with English and Maths who if they had done them the year before would have.

“It means they don’t get the chance to do A-levels or higher vocational courses. It is a lottery, and what did they do wrong?

“I thought there would be more fuss, but staff have to be concerned with their school. I am surprised there has not been more reaction from parents.”

Reflecting on his own school’s position, which saw 37% of pupils hit the GCSE measure, he added: “It was our responsibility to cope with these changes and we didn’t.

“The fact there are a lot of other people that struggled as well is no excuse, it is our job to get it right whatever is thrown at us.

“It is a huge disappointment and it is really important we learn from the changes. We are going flat out to get our young people through.”

Jerry Glazier, National Union of Teachers national executive member for Essex, said: “The union has had a long held opposition to these crude, narrow league tables which we think frequently misrepresent the effectiveness of the schools which are based on numerical outcomes and don’t reflect the nature of the school, the circumstances in which it operates or the nature of the kids.

“It is a failure to recognise that external factors can have a profound impact on a school’s ability to rise up the league tables so in practical terms schools will be doing a fantastic job catering for the diverse needs of their children.

“Parents should always be encouraged to make judgements by visiting, looking at the ethos and depth and breadth of the curriculum.”

Ray Gooding, Essex county councillor for education, said: “I would again like to congratulate all students and schools on last summer’s results.

“The league tables published today show that, despite significant Government changes, the majority of pupils in Essex continue to make good progress in achieving the benchmark of five or more good GCSEs including maths and English.

“The method of measuring results has changed radically this year and it is therefore not possible to make a direct comparison with the results of previous years. The statistics fail to take into account pupils who have gone on to achieve good passes in GCSE exams and other qualifications such as BTECs and IGCSEs.

“A lot of hard work has been put in by pupils and schools across the county, and they should be proud of their achievements.”

Suffolk’s results also slipped, though the authority moved up the overall league table.

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