PARENTS had mixed reactions to the inquiry into Sheffield secondary schools’ flatlining GCSE pass rates.
Alan Tenanty, from Broomhill, said he was “delighted” with his 16-year-old son James’ seven As, four Bs and a C this summer from King Edward VII School. James is now studying for his A Levels at the school’s sixth form.
“I’m satisfied the school got the best out of him,” he said. “The teachers worked hard offering extra sessions right up to the exams.
“But schools are about more than results. They produce citizens and Sheffield’s have possibly excelled in that - not many other cities avoided this summer’s looting and rioting.”
Vicky Hyde’s daughter Billie, 16, from Hillsborough, took her GCSEs at Wisewood School and is now studying performing arts, English, and IT at Longley College.
“She did fairly well, and she got the grades she needed to do what she wanted to do, which was the main thing,” said Vicky.
“But she went to Wisewood in its last year before closure, and I think that affected the quality of teaching. Teachers were coming and going.”
Nicola Quinn, 38, from Beauchief, whose daughter Georgie Johnson passed her GCSEs this summer at Meadowhead School, said: “I think schools can be quite complacent and happy for some kids to settle for Cs and Ds.
“I think a lot of them could do better if they pushed and encouraged.”
Sheffield’s secondary school headteachers have launched their own drive to boost results. Department heads of maths and English from over 20 schools met at Sheffield Hallam University to discuss ways of raising standards.
David Conway, head at Bradfield School, admitted the 2011 results - which saw less than half of the city’s 16-year-olds getting the necessary grades - were “disappointingly lower than expected”.
“We agreed that if we were hitting our targets in maths and English then standards would improve. It is students who are missing their passes in these subjects that is the problem,” he said.
“The aim is to learn from those schools who are doing well and to see how they can support everyone else.”
David Bowes, head at both Tapton and Chaucer, said league tables no longer included information on how schools were helping pupils make good progress from lower starting points.
“The Government’s measure of five A to C passes including English and maths is the one that now matters most to them, and to us too,” he said.
“We are all working hard to reach those standards, but the performance of a relatively small number of students can have a big impact on a school’s pass rate.
“It is true at Chaucer, and it is true at Tapton too. There we had 13 students fail to achieve a grade C in English and because of that we missed our overall target and our pass rate was down to 70 per cent.
“There are all sorts of reasons why things did not work out for those 13 in a subject which really does open doors. So every head now has an unrelenting focus on reaching those threshold measures.
“We will be saying at our meetings with chief executive John Mothersole: we want success and we can deliver.
“We will continue to work as hard as we can to help young people gain the best qualifications they can.”