Suffolk pupils score well in new tables

SUFFOLK schoolchildren outsmarted their East Anglian rivals and performed well above the national average in performance tables released by the Government today.

By Jonathan Barnes

SUFFOLK schoolchildren outsmarted their East Anglian rivals and performed well above the national average in performance tables released by the Government today.

The county's classroom performance for 14-year-olds in English, maths and science bettered that of Norfolk and Essex and outstripped national figures.

Science proved the strongest subject of Suffolk's pupils, with 75% reaching the expected target – level five and above – compared to last year's 72%. The county figure was also 7% above the national results.

Performance in maths crept up by 2%, with 74% of pupils hitting the target – 4% over national figures.

The county's children also out-performed the national picture in English, the figure of 70% of the pupils meeting level five 2% up on the overall achievements.

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Tony Lewis, member of Suffolk County Council's executive committee, said: "These are an excellent set of results and demonstrate the thorough work of teachers and pupils in Suffolk upper and high schools.

"They show that our pupils have the core skills they need to go on to succeed at GCSE level, and later in life."

This year's tables also included value-added scores, which show how pupils improved between Key Stage Two (age 11) and Key Stage Three (age 14).

Although Farlingaye High School in Woodbridge was ranked 13th overall in the county, on its value-added score of 101.8 it was placed third in Suffolk and in the top 25% of schools nationally.

Headteacher, Sue Hargadon, said yesterday that the value-added score addresses some of the "inequalities" of league tables.

She added: "We are pleased with all of our results but parents need to use league tables extremely carefully and should always find out more about what the school has to offer."

George Thomas, headteacher of Kesgrave High School, gave a cautious welcome to the school's top ranking in Suffolk.

"I'm very pleased with the progress of our pupils, but I don't believe the SAT results are a measure of our core purpose and what we are trying to do.

"They distort the curriculum to a certain extent and don't sit perfectly with what we are doing towards GCSEs."

He added: "The results tend to go up down with the efficiency and standards of the markers. We have had some appalling English SATs in the past, so we celebrate good results with a certain tongue-in-cheek – without taking any credit away from the hard work of our staff."

Out of the 141 pupils that sat the exams at Hartismere High School in Eye, 84% achieved a level five, the government's required standard, in English and science and 87% passed the maths test.

Headteacher Richard Hewitt said: "The results are very nice but schools are not football clubs – one needs to be very careful with interpreting what they show.

"Obviously there is far more good work being done in schools nationally than is represented on the league tables."

Stowmarket High School was ranked 17th in the county this year. Headteacher David Oliver said the results had shown a "great improvement" over the last few years but he added that he did not think the league tables "tell you very much".

Stowupland High School in Stowmarket was placed in 14th position this year with 84% of pupils passing the science test, 82% passing maths and 70% passing English.

Headteacher Peter Richards said the results were pleasing, especially as the school only teaches pupils for one year at key stage three, as it takes students from the middle schools in the area.

Mr Richards said: "A lot of pupils here also achieved level six and above in maths, which is phenomenal and a terrific indication that youngsters at that age are very good mathematicians."

Dennis McGarry, headteacher of St Alban's High School in Ipswich, where 92% of pupils passed the English exam and enabled the school to take second place in the county, said: "The fact that we have done well in league table terms is a great encouragement."

The 69 pupils who sat the tests at Stradbroke High School in Eye enabled it to achieve 23rd position in the county's rankings.

Dave Shorten, headteacher, said: "They are a splendid group of kids and the results compare favourably with last year's. We had excellent individual results among the boys and the Key Stage three results were our best ever."

Perry Linsley, deputy head of Bungay High School, believes that Government league tables have improved although they are still misleading.

"By showing the value-added score the tables do now show how pupils have progressed and that is helpful.

"My main reservations about league tables do still apply, however, as they show only part of a child's education," he said.

At the Sir John Leman High School, Beccles, headteacher Nigel English believes that the results of the league tables are confusing.

He said that it was important that children did well in academic subjects but this should not be the only criteria used to judge pupils' success rates.

Michael Lincoln, head of Denes High School, Lowestoft, was pleased that the school's achievements were recognised with a value-added score of 100.9 that reflected well on staff and pupils.

"Overall I have to say that the league tables only portray a partial picture of any school."

Dudley Whittaker, headteacher at Sudbury Upper School, said he was delighted with his pupils' performance, despite only receiving on overall ranking of 27th.

"At this school, we worked towards our value added figure, which at 101.5 is the ninth best in the county, and well above both the local and national average," he said.

"But the overall ranking system is unfair because into doesn't take into account the starting point of the students or the catchment area of the school."

At Mildenhall College of Technology, the Key Stage 3 results were the first recorded since the school achieved technology status in September 2002.

As a result, the college were given specific targets to meet in maths and science – and headteacher Terry Lewis said he was delighted these were hit.

He said: "People have worked hard towards it. Staff and pupils have responded extremely well."

Adrian Williams, headteacher of County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds, described his pupils' results as "pleasing," but also questioned the logic of producing the league tables for Year 9 children.

"I think these league tables are unnecessary, although we are happy to tell and show people our results," he said.

"The results were the best we have ever had at 14-years-old."

Thomas Mills High at Framlingham was ranked fourth in the county, but 17th in the value added table for Suffolk.

Deputy head John Hibberd, felt did not reflect pupils' achievements. He claimed it gave more "value added" weight to lower ability pupils than to higher ability pupils.

"As far as being fourth, that's not an issue for us, it's meaningless," he said.

At Thurston Community College, near Bury St Edmunds, pupils and staff were celebrating after achieving good results across the board.

Headteacher Chris Bowler said: "I am very pleased about our performance. I think it really reflects the hard work of colleagues in the middle schools which work with us.

"We have done very well, especially in science, while our English results have also improved."

At Great Cornard Upper School, Mike Foley, headteacher, said he was pleaded with the school's overall ranking of 19th.

He said: "It is always difficult when we talk in terms of rankings because there are so many explanations behind those rankings. What I would say is that as always we will be looking to improve in the future."

And Howard Lay, headteacher at Haverhill's Samuel Ward Upper School, said the establishment's value added score proves the school has made massive progress despite its overall ranking of 20.

"On the key indicator of value added Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 results, Samuel Ward came 6th out of 45 schools in Suffolk."

At Castle Manor Upper School, also in Haverhill, headteacher Madeleine Vigar said she was confident the school could improve on this year's results. The school was ranked 30th in the county.

She said: "We are not too despondent as we have made fantastic progress this term and I am confident we will improve in next year's league tables."

Meanwhile, a teaching union has branded the tests for the league tables "straightjackets" on schools.

Martin Goold, county secretary for Suffolk's branch of the National Union of Teachers, added that the league tables published by the government are merely an index to a school's social standing or its deprivation.

"The quite good schools very much follow the leafy suburbs and the schools with problems tend to be those in estates or town centres. Even with the value-added score it does not give the public a great deal of information."

Mr Goold congratulated schools in Suffolk for gaining better results than other counties in the region, saying they "can be proud".

However he added: "It means that Suffolk is the best at getting children through the tests but teachers are concerned about something more fundamental to education.

"Are we testing children on the right things and are we forgetting the most important things about education, such as learning skills and enjoying art, music, writing or developing oral skills. These are the things that cannot be assessed in a paper and pencil test."

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