Updated: Reaction to league tables day from across Leeds as results rise but some schools miss GCSE targets

HEADTEACHERS HAVE hailed the performance of Leeds school pupils as the city achieved the biggest improvement in GCSE results in Yorkshire

Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

However new league tables show there is still a group of inner city academies which are failing to meet Government floor targets.

The new secondary school league tables show the proportion of students in the city getting at least five good grades, including English and maths, has increased to 55.5 per cent compared with 51 per cent the previous year.

This has meant the city has climbed up national league tables and has improved more than anywhere else in Yorkshire.

It is now ranked eighth out of 15 education authority areas in Yorkshire - up from 11th a year earlier.

Last year Government reforms were blamed for the vast majority of the city’s schools seeing their pass rates slump in the exams sat in 2014.

This trend has been reversed today with more than 25 schools in Leeds seeing results improve and less than 10 experiencing a fall in good grades in the exams sat last summer.

However an analysis of the data published by the Department for Education does show that there are five schools in the city which failed to meet minimum floor standards at GCSE.

Schools are classed as being beneath the floor if less than 40 per cent of pupils achieved give A* to C grades, including English and maths, and students also fail to keep up with the national average level of progress being made in those subjects.

This year David Young Community Academy, in Seacroft, which recently went into special measures, Leeds City Academy, Leeds East Academy, South Leeds Academy and Swallow Hill Community College were all said to be beneath the floor, according to analysis by the Press Association.

However both Leeds City and Leeds East, which are sponsored by White Rose Academies, have seen results improve significantly compared with last year. Leeds East’s results increases from 26 per cent to 39 per cent.

Paul West, Director of Education at School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA), which runs South Leeds said: “While South Leeds Academy is on a journey of improvement and not yet well positioned in performance tables, there are positive signs that historic issues are being resolved. Ofsted Inspectors, visiting last year, recognised the collective efforts being made and SPTA will continue to support the academy and its hard-working staff to bring about improved outcomes for students”.

Garforth Academy, which is also sponsored by SPTA, was at the other end of the tables having had the highest proportion of pupils achieving the GCSE benchmark at 80 per cent - up ten per cent on the year before.

The school’s principal AD Woodhouse said: “Garforth Academy are very proud of the achievement of our young people. The 2015 results were the culmination of the positive work ethic displayed by the students supported by hard working staff and supportive parents and carers. We are particularly delighted with this outcome, especially in light of the pace of change all schools are having to address. Congratulations must surely go to our students.”

It was followed by Allerton High and then Prince Henry’s Grammar in Otley as the city’s strongest performers at GCSE.

One of the biggest increases in good grades was at Bruntcliffe School - now Bruntcliffe Academy in Morley, which went from 32 per cent of pupils achieving the benchmark in 2014 to 52 per cent last year. The results were secured under the leadership of David Gurney, the head at Cockburn School who was seconded to the school. It has since joined the Gorse Academies Trust.

Anne-Marie Garnett is now principal at Bruntcliffe Academy having previously led Morley. She said: “These results were achieved under David Gurney. We are pleased to be one of the most improved schools in the city. The school is on a journey and believe we can improve further.” She said that since the school had joined Gorse Academies Trust there had been a focus on improving pupil behaviour.

John Smeaton Academy was another of the most improved schools in Leeds at GCSE in 2015. It saw a 14 percentage point rise in the number of students gaining five or more A* to Cs including English and maths, from 35 per cent in 2014 to 49 per cent last summer. The school converted to an academy in January 2014 when it joined United Learning.

Headteacher Julian Snape said: “We are delighted with our standing in these latest tables which show that John Smeaton Academy is one of the most improved schools in Leeds. Since becoming an academy, the school has made great strides forward as we put in place measures to improve outcomes for our students. The 14 percentage point increase in our headline result is testament to the determination and high expectations of our students and staff and I am confident that this will spur on our current Year 11 cohort in their exams this summer.”

The city’s performance has been hailed by Coun Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children and families. She said; “The improvements Leeds schools have made overall demonstrate that young people in the city, regardless of where they live, have fantastic opportunities to achieve their full potential and go on to achieve great things.

“The results released today show that Leeds continues to improve despite national figures remaining static. Attainment in Leeds has increased by four percentage points compared to 2014 on the key indicator. There has also been an increase in Leeds in pupils achieving the EBacc and this is now in line with national, and above that of our statistical neighbours.”

Two independent schools in Leeds were classed as having no pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths, but this is because international GCSE qualifications in the core subjects - favoured by some in the private sector - are not included in the tables. Both the Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) and Gateways were ranked as having no pupils who achieved good GCSEs.

The incoming principal at GSAL Sue Woodroofe said: “For many leading independent schools, zero in the league tables can nevertheless mean excellent examination performance. While performance tables have merit, they only tell part of the story and can be misleading as a comparison. They exclude IGCSE results, thus do not accurately reflect the academic outcomes for schools choosing this well-established, rigorous qualification.”

“At GSAL, we choose IGCSE courses in subjects including maths, science and modern languages. IGCSEs are chosen where we believe it offers the best curriculum for our pupils, the most engaging subject matter, and the best preparation for A-level. Our results consistently justify this approach, with our pupils achieving grades well above the national average at GCSE and repeating this success in sixth form, as demonstrated by our strong A-level performance.”