Pupils at secondary schools across Sheffield are improving the most compared to those living in other major cities, new figures have revealed.
The latest school league tables show Sheffield is the best performing core city in England for the amount of progress youngsters make between leaving primary school and finishing secondary school.
In Sheffield only two out of 26 secondary schools are failing to meet the Progress 8 measure – ranking it top of core cities consisting of Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – and 59th out of 151 local council areas.
Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families said work will continue to boost standards further.
She said: “It is great to see Sheffield schools going from strength to strength.
“These results highlight the positive improvements we have seen in our schools over the past five years.
“This year we have seen fewer underperforming schools as well as an increase in the number of schools judged as good and outstanding by Ofsted – now over 80 per cent compared to 73 per cent in 2015.
“However, we are not, and never have been, complacent. We have high expectations that every child in Sheffield should go to a great school and achieve their full potential. We will continue to work with all our schools to boost standards further.”
But despite rising standards of education in Sheffield, a headteacher has warned that the constant moving goalposts for attainment have an impact on pupils’ self esteem.
Ministers claim the new measures are a fairer way of ranking schools than the old method, which was based on the proportion of students getting five or more C grade GCSEs including maths.
But the two schools classed as ‘underperforming’, Chaucer School, in Parson Cross, and UTC Sheffield, in the city centre, have defended their position.
Both are making adjustments to their curriculum to make it more compatible with the progress measures.
Chaucer headteacher Scott Burnside said: “We are working very hard to drive improvement in the ever changing world of accountability measures in the educational landscape.
“What we have seen this year is particularly improved results in the basics – in English and maths we have surpassed any previous performance ever achieved here at Chaucer.
“We have also seen significant progress in five A to B grades – a 10 per cent improvement there and a 14 per cent improvement in five A to C grades. We have also got improvement in the grading areas below that as well.
“The Performance 8 measures widened the portfolio that students cover and our curriculum is flexing to include that.
“We are on an improved journey from acadimisation in 2012 taking our students and their confidence to a level where they feel they are sharply focused on attainment across a wide range of subjects.”
The school also works closely with local businesses such as Keepmoat and Irwin Mitchell to give students pathways into employment.
Mr Burnside added: “The ever changing workload does have a harming effect on students. It undermines their confidence and self esteem.
“We are working very hard to raise students and drive their success so they can go out and be successful learners and responsible citizens.”
UTC Sheffield executive principal Nick Crew said the new measures suit traditional schools more than those such as the UTC, whose pupils do take all the English Baccalaureate subjects looked at.
It also only take students from the age of 14, yet youngsters performance is looked at from when they are 11.
Mr Crew said: “The new government performance measures suit traditional schools as the scores reward attainment and progress in a small number of core academic subjects linked to the English Baccalaureate.
“UTCs are very different to traditional schools with a remit to deliver a curriculum that trains young people, aged 14 to 19, in the skills their local regional economy needs, with the support of local universities and employers.
“Our curriculum prioritises English, maths and science, and technical qualifications in creative and digital, and advanced engineering and manufacturing. Our students do very well in those subjects.
“However, our employer-focused curriculum has limited the score that the UTC can achieve in the new government performance tables.
“Our students have not completed all of the English Baccalaureate subjects, and some of our technical subjects do not qualify for inclusion in the new performance table.
“As a result, the majority of our students received a zero score for a subject being missing. That significantly impacted on the UTC’s overall ranking, even though our students achieved strongly in those subjects, which are also highly valued by employers.
“To compound these issues, the UTC has far less time to influence students’ progress scores which are measured over five years starting at the end of primary school.
“Young people can only join a UTC at the age of 14 not at 11. Yet their educational experience for the three years prior to joining us counts on their final score, even though they have attended a different school from the UTC for three-fifths of the time they are measured. Yet we know from our own data that students’ progress accelerates once they join us.
“As the start of this academic year, we decided to address these challenges by adjusting the curriculum so that it is more compatible with the new progress measures whilst continuing to provide the high value technical learning alongside.
“As a result, we anticipate a more positive score in future.”