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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Schools will protest over ow GCSE pass rates

Five Cumbrian schools are not hitting their targets for GCSE grades because of a change in the exam marking system.

By Duncan Bick

The schools, in Carlisle, Aspatria and Barrow, have all failed to get above the 40 per cent pass at grades A*-C in five subjects, including English and maths.

The disappointing set of results has been blamed on a change in English pass rate boundaries. These were raised by as much as 10 per cent for pupils who sat the exam this summer as compared to those who sat it in January.

The schools are protesting.

However, regulator Ofqual said yesterday that the exams were marked correctly and January’s “generously”.

The Association of School and College Leaders has also said it will consider legal action.

The schools affected were Richard Rose Central and Morton in Carlisle, Beacon Hill Community School in Aspatria, Furness Academy and Walney, both of which are in Barrow.

The central academy, on Victoria Place, had the best results of the affected schools, with rates of 38 per cent at A*-C including core subjects and 79 per cent without.

At Morton, these numbers were 31 and 88 respectively.

Mike Gibbons, the schools’ outgoing chief executive, commented: “Despite these disappointing headline figures, substantial progress is being made on many fronts. The GCSE results including English and maths have been affected by the national issue regarding English results.”

Julie Richardson, Beacon Hill’s headteacher, said the school’s small pupil roll made it one of the most affected in the whole United kingdom. The school had a pass rate including the two core subjects of 31 per cent and 55 per cent without.

It had only 30 students sitting this summer’s exams, meaning each child made up more than three per cent of its figures.

Ms Richardson said: “We had four students who all passed the GCSE exam in English at a good C grade and the internal part of the course (the controlled assessment) was also in the C banding. We expected to achieve a 43 per cent five A*-C grade GCSEs, including English and maths. However these four students were downgraded which affected the headline figures by 12 per cent.”

Meanwhile Tom Ryan, headteacher of St Joseph's Catholic High School in Workington, has criticised the “unfair” GCSE English results handed out to his pupils. Mr Ryan said yesterday he was considering an appeal as he had a responsibility to the 250 pupils who sat exams at the school this summer but was awaiting the Ofqual report before deciding what action to take. It is not yet known what Mr Ryan has decided to do.

Mr Ryan said: “It’s an absolute disgrace. We simply can’t accept something like that. It’s patently unfair on the children. Getting a grade C in English can be critical. We have got a child who’s not been able to take up his Gen II apprenticeship because he didn’t get a grade C.”

Mr Ryan said the issue had not only affected year 11 pupils, but also the school’s year 10 students, who took their English exams a year early. But, while the year 10 pupils will get the chance to retake next year, Mr Ryan said many in year 11 will have had their choices for further education or work affected.

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