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Failing Cumbrian school tops exam league tables

A closure-threatened school boasts one of the county’s GCSE success stories, official figures published today reveal.

Lynda Dalkin photo
Lynda Dalkin

Download: School league tables (Appleby-Samuel King's) summary

Download: School league tables (Samuel King's (cont)-William Howard)

Every one of the 76 pupils at Southfield Technology College who sat exams last summer gained five or more GCSEs or equivalent qualifications with good A*-C grades.

The only other local school to achieve the 100 per cent feat is Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith, Cumbria’s only selective state-funded school where children must pass an entrance exam to be offered a place.

A total of 53 per cent of Southfield’s class of 2013 achieved five A*-Cs, including the core subjects of English and maths – this measure is currently the benchmark of exam success who sit GCSEs at 16.

The figures - data collected from every secondary school in the country - have been published by the Department for Education just a week after Southfield and Stainburn schools were plunged into special measures following damning reports.

Ofsted inspectors have judged the two schools to be providing ‘inadequate’ standards of education.

Today’s figures for Stainburn School show that 73 per cent of its year 11 cohort last summer achieved at least five good GCSEs; 47 per cent got five or more including English and maths.

Ofsted’s judgements prompted Cumbria County Council to launch a consultation this week on plans to formally close the two schools and replace them with a single-site academy.

Today’s exam figures may raise questions about Ofsted’s findings during the council’s closure consultation, which includes meetings at the two schools early next month.

Lynda Dalkin, headteacher of Southfield Technology College, is formally challenging the inspectorate’s findings.

As today’s figures were formally released, Mrs Dalkin said: “I’m immensely proud of the efforts of my staff have put in to secure good results for those children’s education and futures. It helps secure their future for years to come.

“Getting 100 per cent doesn’t come easy whatever the subject.”

A leading headteacher, who is also challenging Ofsted’s recent findings into his own school, today moved to allay people’s fears about the state of secondary education in the county.

John McAuley, head of Newman Catholic School in Carlisle, said: “People can look at these figures and see that children are high achieving and getting exceptional results.

“If you were just to listen to the news over the last few weeks you would think education in Cumbria is atrocious. It is not the case.

League tables in today's News & Star

Have your say

This situation is just absurd. Councillors jumping up and down ridiculous comments issued, having not bothered to even do their homework, no wonder this county is in such a state.
The below links may be of interest, I find the second extraction odd so why do OFSTED not supply parents with details how to complain about them?

1.“Christ's Hospital. Christ's Hospital! Last year, it recorded its best ever GCSE results, with 80 per cent of its students gaining As or A*s. One hundred per cent of its A-level candidates passed, with 33 per cent achieving three or more grade As.”

2.“Pupils and parents had not been supplied with details about how to complain to Ofsted about the school.”

How can an organisation be rated only last week as "not fit for purpose" still be operating?

Posted by Edd on 30 January 2014 at 18:30

I am writing in response to an infuriating article published on the front page of the News and Star on Friday 24 January in which "Joe Holliday accused Cumbria County Council of knowing that standards at both [Stainburn and Southfield] were in decline a decade ago". Furthermore he goes on to demand "that information should be made public to show what went wrong". This is all under the headline "A decade of decline".

Well, I'll tell you "what went wrong", some people haven't checked their facts first.

Southfield results for 5 or more A*-C GCSE grades since 2004 are: 53% (2004), 53% (2005), 58% (2006), 54% (2007), 61% (2008), 64% (2009), 67% (2010), 87% (2011), 89% (2012) and 100% (2013). Explain where's the ten year decline in this school? In fact if you go back to 2001 it was just 31%.

Stainburn results for 5 or more A*-C GCSE grades since 2004 are: 49% (2004), 55% (2005), 55% (2006), 59% (2007), 52% (2008), 65% (2009), 58% (2010), 72% (2011), 80% (2012) and 73% (2013). If you go back to 2001 it was 43%. These results fluctuate far more, and possibly tell a different story, although I still cannot see how the statement "a decade of decline" is justified.

I know what some will say though - GCSEs are getting easier - this is easy to correct too. Just compare to the national average - Southfield has been getting closer and closer to the average and finally broke this barrier in 2011 when they achieved 17% above national average and have continued to be above ever since. Stainburn also achieved above national average for the first time in 2011 (by 2%), although then went under (by 3%) in 2012 and were under again in 2013 (by 9%).

I would like to see Joe Holliday explain what factual information he had to support his comments. All of the data I have used for my comments are in the public domain, so why demand "to make public" the findings? They are public!

Southfield has appealed against the OfSTED grading and this has clearly been supported by Tony Cunningham and many comments on this site.

I am surprised that the News and Star ran with a headline "A decade of decline" which is clearly not supported by the facts, but I note that the last journalist writing on this topic was not responsible for this particular headline which I also feel could be seen as malicious. I would ask Kelly Pattison perhaps to investigate this further. It is clear to me there is a bigger story here.

As a member of the Allerdale community I would again like to offer my thoughts to all of the teachers within Workington schools who are clearly doing an excellent job despite an external political agenda.

Posted by Bob on 28 January 2014 at 20:43

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