ALL but one of Fenland’s secondary schools have improved their performances at GCSE according to league tables published by the government on Wednesday.
But while Wisbech’s Thomas Clarkson Community College saw a slight rise in the number of its pupils hitting the government benchmark of five GCSEs at A* to C grades including maths and English, it is still not meeting the government’s target.
The government target requires at least 35 per cent of pupils to achieve five grades A* to C at GCSE including maths and English - and also that pupils make the progress expected from 11 to 16.
But college Principal Maureen Strudwick said she was proud of the achievements over the past few years and the improvement that has been made.
And she blasted the introduction of the government’s new English Baccalaureate measure, which wants students to achieve A* to C grades in academic-only subjects.
The Baccalaureate, which was introduced without warning when the league tables were published last week, includes maths, English, either geography or history, a modern language (but lists classical Greek and Latin as two of those accepted) and science.
However, Mrs Strudwick said this new ‘goal post’ would not deter her school, which would continue to offer courses in a wide range of vocational subjects.
“Our curriculum was rated as good following an Ofsted inspection in September, it would probably be judged differently now.
“But we pride ourselves on offering courses that are appropriate for every child. We are committed to provide courses that encourage and motivate.
“People work very, very hard here to provide a curriculum with a wide range of courses and that will not change.
“We have got children who will do the English Baccalaureate but it is not suitable for every child. People learn in different ways and for many the best way is through practical type vocational courses and I’m angry the government is trying to undermine these,” she said.
And she refused to worry about the fact her school has failed to hit the government’s target of 35 per cent of pupils achieving five GCSEs at A* to C grades including maths and English.
Schools below that level - which was raised from 30 per cent by the coalition government - are considered to be under-performing and could face being closed or taken over.
Only 27 per cent of Year 11 pupils at Thomas Clarkson met this target, but this was up two per cent on the previous year.
“Some might say I’m burying my head in the sand, but I refuse to worry. We are making improvements but it takes a long while to turn a big ship around. We can improve and we will but it is not going to happen overnight.
“We will continue to do what we are doing - there are no magic wands out there to get this school into the position the government wants it to be in - it is going to take time but we are moving in the right direction,” said Mrs Strudwick.
Tim Hitch, Principal at March Neale-Wade Community College said the Baccalaureate was a step back in time to the former grammar school system.
And stated it would not change the way the Neale-Wade caters for its pupils.
He said the school’s curriculum offers students a choice.
They can follow the more academic English Baccalaureate route or they can choose from a wide range of vocational courses.
And Mr Hitch said there would be no changes to the vocational and Btech courses offered in a bid to look good in the league tables as he believes these provide a valuable choice.
“It is important that we consider the individuals’ aims and ambitions and provide the right qualifications for them to achieve.
“The Baccalaureate is only one value and is not necessarily suitable for every child. It is important that our syllabus offers a wide range of options to ensure students are as successful as they can be - successful children equals happy children,” said Mr Hitch.
A total of 15 per cent of Neale-Wade students achieved the English Baccalaureate in their exams last year - the highest percentage for a state school in Fenland.
Mr Hitch said he was ‘chuffed’ with the school’s performance, which has steadily improved over the past few years.
In 2007 the school had only 33 per cent of pupils achieving five A* to C grades including maths and English, last year it had risen to 43 per cent and it was up again this year to 52 per cent.
“Our staff and pupils have worked hard to improve and we will continue to work hard to improve even further in the future,” added Mr Hitch.
Wisbech Grammar School had 36 per cent of its pupils achieve the Baccalaureate. But the Grammar School was also the only Fenland school to see the percentage of its pupils achieving five A* to C grades including maths and English fall.
The Grammar School had 93 per cent of pupils hit this target last summer - the lowest percentage it has achieved since 2007 - and down by six per cent on 2009.
Long Sutton’s Peele Community College was the most improved when it came to the five GCSEs at A* to C including maths and English with 58 per cent of its Year 11 pupils achieving this standard.
But none of its pupils achieved the English Baccalaureate.
The Peele School also boasted the best percentage - 89 per cent - of its pupils making expected progress between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4.