Southsea school strides forward

by
02 November 2006

A C OF E comprehensive school, St Luke's, Southsea, which was near the bottom of the league tables five years ago, and had a serious truancy problem, is rated the second most improved school in the country, according to data published last week by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).

St Luke's, which serves a socially deprived housing area near the largely defunct Portsmouth docks, reached the most-improved-schools list for the first time last year. Its rise began four years ago when a new head, Krysia Butwilowska, put in place a strategy to raise standards, lift staff morale, and improve the school's standing locally.

In 1992, 11 per cent of entrants gained four or more GCSE passes at  grades A to C; last summer, 57 per cent did. The "most-improved" list included two other C of E comprehensives, Bishop Stopford's, Enfield, in north London, and St George's, Broadstairs, in Kent, together with St Bede's Inter-Church School, Cambridge, which has a strong Anglican presence.

Six of the top 30 comprehensives in England were C of E Aided. They were Archbishop Temple School, Preston, where 98 per cent of examination entrants gained five or more A to C grades; the King's School, Peterborough (98 per cent); Sexey's School, Bruton (96 per cent); St Aidan's, Harrogate (95 per cent); the Lady Margaret School, London (95 per cent); and the St Marylebone School, London  (94 per cent).

Wilson's (C of E) School, Wallington, Surrey, scored 100 per cent. Wilson's and King's, Peterborough, were also among the top 15 state schools at A level, along with St Olave's and St Saviour's C of E Grammar School, Orpington.

Three Anglican comprehensives fared less well. Bradford Cathedral Community College, Immanuel Community College, also in Bradford, and Agnes Stewart School, Leeds, had among the highest truancy rates in the country. Agnes Stewart School was among schools with the worst GCSE results.

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The dioceses responsible for these schools have strategies to tackle the problems. Agnes Stewart and an under-performing community school will close in July. Pupils will move in September to the new David Young Community Academy, which is sponsored by Ripon & Leeds diocese in partnership with a commercial organisation.

In 2007, Bradford Cathedral School is to become an academy sponsored by Bradford diocese and Toc H. Immanuel Community College, a former community school which gained a new name and a new building when it was taken on by Bradford diocese two years ago, is already improving.
 
In a comment on the results, the Church of England's chief education officer, Canon John Hall, said: "Only five per cent of secondary schools are Anglican; so the presence of six among the top 30, and another leading the improvement list, is commendable. So are the strategies put in place by dioceses to tackle problems facing a few of our schools. They demonstrate that the Church is concerned for all pupils."

The data on which league tables are based is to change next year. The results of many previously under-performing schools have improved rapidly through the introduction of popular vocational courses. These lead to GNVQ awards, recognised by the Qualifications and Assessment Authority (QCA) as equivalent to four C-grade GCSEs.

Critics say that this move has distorted the picture and allowed the Government to exaggerate the rise in examination successes. This year's results will be required to take account of pupils' performance in English and mathematics when determining schools' overall achievement. The new assessment regime will also place greater emphasis on "value-added" scores, which currently compare pupils' GCSE performance with their prior attainment, and the number receiving free school meals.

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