City schools are failing to make the grade

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SHEFFIELD has sunk lower down the national league tables after disappointing GCSE results from 16-year-olds in 2011, it emerged today.

The city now ranks 137th out of 150 local authorities - sliding down from 132nd last year and 126th two years ago.

Eight secondaries meanwhile are now ranked in the bottom 200 in the whole of England, leaving them vulnerable to Government sanctions.

Chaucer, Firth Park, Hinde House, Newfield, Yewlands and the academies Sheffield Park, Sheffield Springs and Parkwood achieved pass rates of 36 per cent and below.

A ninth, Abbeydale Grange, was also in the same category but closed down last summer.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has said that schools which continue to fail to meet minimum targets - 35 per cent of pupils passing five GCSEs at A to C, including English and maths - will be targeted.

He has said such schools could be closed or forced to turn themselves into academies.

And the so-called ‘floor target’ is to be increased from 35 to 40 per cent this summer - and could be as high as 50 per cent by 2015.

Park, on the Manor and Springs at Arbourthorne were taken over by the United Learning Trust in 2006 to become academies, while Parkwood was relaunched by a separate organisation E-ACT two years later.

Park principal Maria Nightingale defended her school’s record, and said pass rates had more than tripled over the last six years.

“Last summer saw the academy record its best ever GCSE results, with 36 per cent of students achieving five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths,” she said.

“This is an excellent achievement, which demonstrates the ongoing improvement here at the academy, and is testament to the hard work and determination of our students, our staff and the ongoing support of our community.”

Elaine Cropper, acting principal at Springs, said in 2006 just 11 per cent of students at its predecessor Myrtle Springs were making the grade.

“We have seen significant improvement since the academy first took over from the predecessor school in 2006. This year, following November’s early entry exams, our Year 11 students are well on track to meet the national floor targets,” she added.

Parkwood principal Mike Westerdale said the academy was disappointed to be below the Government’s target.

”But these were still our best ever results and we are extremely happy to have continued our upward trajectory,” he said.

“We have every confidence that 2012 will be a bumper year for us surpassing the 40 per cent mark - in addition to the progress measures recently introduced - ensuring all students gain the recognition they truly deserve.”

Positives for the city included the performance of Handsworth Grange, which was placed on the failing list after a critical inspection in 2008.

This year its GCSE pass rate was up by 11 per cent to a best ever 55 per cent, making it one of the top 200 most improved schools in the country.

Headteacher Anne Quaile said she was delighted with the school’s continuing progress.

“We feel we are going from strength to strength, as we also the most improved school in Sheffield over the last three years,” she said.

“We moved out of special measures much faster than was anticipated and since then we have continued the upward trend.

“Our 2011 results were our best ever and are a result of staff, students and parents too all pulling together,” she added.

Statistics examining the progress made by pupils from the ages of 11 to 16 - whatever their starting points and not taking qualifications into account - contained mixed news for the city.

Newfield at Norton Lees was one of the worst performing schools in the country on that measure, putting it under added pressure.

But supporters of the now closed Abbeydale Grange will note its performance on the so-called ‘value added’ scale was in the top 200 in England - bearing out their arguments that the school did excellent work with students from a wide range of backgrounds.