TOP performing schools in South Yorkshire which clinched much-improved or high GCSE exam results last year have been singled out for Government praise.
Schools minister David Laws sent his personal congratulations to just five schools in South Yorkshire, including Silverdale, Handsworth Grange, Parkwood Academy and Notre Dame in Sheffield.
Ridgewood School in Doncaster also received his letter of commendation.
It confirmed the schools were in the top 100 most improving in the country for progress made by students between Key Stage Two and GCSE.
Mr Laws told headteachers: “I would like to congratulate your staff, governors and pupils for their hard work and success, and thank you for your leadership in continuing the drive towards high standards of educational achievement.”
At Parkwood Academy in Shirecliffe last summer, 47 per cent of pupils achieved five A* to C GCSE grades including English and maths – an increase of 17 percentage points in a year.
Principal Mike Westerdale said: “We are delighted with the improvements and successes we achieved, and the letter has given us the additional momentum to maintain our excellent levels of progress.
“We are excited and ambitious for our future and look forward to working with partner primary schools and the community to ensure we provide our young people with a world class education.”
Handsworth Grange School has seen a similar leap in improvement, going from special measures to a ‘good’ rating at Ofsted level, and increasing its GCSE benchmark by 30 percentage points to 62 in four years.
Headteacher Anne Quaile said: “This is testimony to all the hard work that has been put in by staff and pupils.”
In a statement about the letter, the Government said it was ‘determined to narrow the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers’.
The Pupil Premium initiative is targeting extra money at schools to help the poorest children reach their academic potential.
Ms Quaile added: “We have set up a ‘closing the gap’ team and meet very regularly to discuss vulnerable pupils so we feel we are not missing anybody.”
Jane Willis, headteacher at Notre Dame High School in Ranmoor, where 74 per cent of pupils met the five GCSE benchmark last year, said: “We were delighted to get the letter from David Laws as it recognises the hard work that students, their teachers and parents put in over the years.
“Notre Dame is a truly comprehensive school with students from all areas of Sheffield and a variety of backgrounds.
“We see every student as a unique individual so it is always about giving the best life chances to each child, no matter what difficulties they might face.”