Will a new way of charting progress help schools climb the league tables?

Rob Corbett, of Ifield Community College, and Pauline Montalto, of Thomas Bennett Community College

Rob Corbett, of Ifield Community College, and Pauline Montalto, of Thomas Bennett Community College

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Two Crawley schools have taken the bottom three places in the Government’s latest GCSE league tables for West Sussex.

But headteachers hope a new way of measuring the achievements of students during their years at secondary school will provide a fairer picture of how well their schools have performed.

The new tables, which show the percentage of students who earned five or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent, including English and maths, were published by the Department for Education last week.

Ifield Community College came bottom of the pile with a 35 per cent pass rate and Thomas Bennett Community College, in Tilgate, was two places higher with 39 per cent.

The highest placed secondary school in town, with a 61 per cent pass rate, was Holy Trinity School, in Gossops Green, which placed 16th out of the 37 schools in the county for whom data was published.

Hazelwick School, in Three Bridges, and Oriel High School, in Maidenbower, were three and four places lower, with 59 per cent each, while St Wilfrid’s, in Southgate, saw a 53 per cent pass rate.

All three were above the national average pass rate of 52.8 per cent but fell below the average for West Sussex, which was 59.4 per cent.

Rob Corbett, who took over as principal at Ifield Community College in September 2014, said his school was aiming for higher results and he and his staff had been “disappointed that we were not able to bring the improvements made at the school to bear in time for these young people”.

Mr Corbett added: “I fully accept the reasons for league tables and they will be made fairer from next year when the new Progress 8 measure gives parents a genuine comparison between schools, irrespective of the ability profile of the intake.”

Progress 8, which will come into play for the 2016 league tables, will measure the achievements of students across eight subjects from the time they leave primary school, comparing them with other pupils who had started secondary school with the same academic attainment level.

The change will essentially mean a school with an intake of less academically able students would be judged on the progress they made rather than simply the GCSE results they scored, giving a clearer picture of their achievements throughout their school life.

Mr Corbett added: “I know from all the feedback we have received that Ifield Community College is a much improved place to learn and we look forward to this having a positive impact on the outcomes for students.”

The Progress 8 changes were also welcomed by Pauline Montalto, Thomas Bennett’s head of school which, despite its placing, saw a 9 per cent increase in its results, with significant improvements in maths and continued excellent progress in English.

Ms Montalto said the college was “planning” for the coming changes and added: “The league tables report attainment rather than the progress of students from their starting points.

“We have an unrelenting focus on ensuring further improvements so that all our students achieve their potential and leave us as confident, aspirational and successful young people.”

Regarding the increase in the results at Thomas Bennett – which was one of the largest in the county – Ms Montalto said: “Our progress over the last year is testament to the commitment and hard work of all the staff and students in the school.”

Countywide, the top performing school was Millais, in Horsham, with an 83 per cent pass rate – enough to place it 211th out of 3,076 schools nationwide – followed by St Paul’s Catholic College, in Burgess Hill, and Bishop Luffa, in Chichester, with 79 and 76 per cent respectively.

At a full meeting of West Sussex County Council on Friday (October 16), Councillor Jeremy Hunt, cabinet member for education and skills, described the county’s GCSE results as “excellent news”, particularly the average, which had risen by 2 per cent on last year’s results.

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