Steady progress as city schools improve again
BRISTOL schools' performance in GCSE exams has improved for a fifth consecutive year.
The steady progress of the city's secondary schools has been highlighted in the official test results released by the Department for Education today.
Almost 52 per cent of 15 and 16-year-old students achieved five A* to C grades, including English and maths, in their exams last summer, a rise of two per cent on the 2011 score.
Using the widely-recognised performance measure, Bristol is now closing in on the national average of 59.4 per cent.
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One school in the city posted what is believed to be the most improved set of results in the country.
Oasis Academy Brightstowe, in Shirehampton, saw the proportion of its pupils achieving five good GCSEs rocket from 30 per cent to 62 per cent.
The academy's principal, Matt Butler, said: "We're thrilled with the results. It's almost another point of celebration – it's great for the school and the community. This community has suffered for too long with a school which has under-performed.
"The results are above the national average and above anyone's expectations."
Another school with an improved set of results was Oasis Academy John Williams, in Hengrove, which saw its percentage rise from 40 to 49.
Rebecca Clarke, formerly head at the school and now regional academies director for Oasis, said the figure should stand at 51 per cent but was reduced on a technicality.
She said: "When you look at Brightstowe and John Williams together, we did really well and work is continuing to make sure we continue our improvement. At John Williams we already have 52 per cent of students with five A* to C grades with maths based on results from January."
Some city secondaries, however, are languishing below the Government's floor target of 40 per cent of students gaining five good GCSEs.
They are Brislington Enterprise College (37 per cent), Bristol Metropolitan Academy (34 per cent) and the Orchard School (38 per cent).
However Bristol Met's head teacher, Steve Taylor, said the fiasco surrounding the marking of English papers had impacted upon results. With appeals and retakes taken into account, he says the school should achieve a score of about 45 per cent.
Mr Taylor, who complained that last-minute grade boundary changes meant students unfairly missed out on C grades or higher, felt the Government should have deferred the release of the results until after the result of a legal challenge.
He said: "There should be a decision later this week about that. Lots of our students sat the free re-sits which were offered in the autumn. We had a lot of success in those exams and some of the original results were overturned on appeal."
In South Gloucestershire, 56.4 per cent of students earned five good GCSEs, up from 56 per cent last year.
Abbeywood Community School in Stoke Gifford and King's Oak Academy in Kingswood both posted a vastly improved set of results.
Dave Baker, who saw the school's results rise to 47 per cent last year from 41 per cent in 2011, said: "The percentage went up, but not by as much as we had hoped, and that was down to the issues surrounding the marking of the English papers. But overall it was a positive picture."
Kings Oak Academy, the former Kingsfield School, saw its score rise to 51 per cent from 33 per cent the year before.
Academy principal Ian Frost said: "It's quite a hike and we are really pleased with the results. We have really managed to get our students, staff and parents working hard together, and the teaching staff have done a fantastic job in turning things around."
In North Somerset, 58.8 per cent of students achieved five A* to C including English and maths, an increase of just over one per cent on last year. In Bath & North East Somerset, 57.5 per cent reached the benchmark, a slip on the 64.2 per cent recorded in 2011.
Independent schools in the region continued to perform strongly, with Redland High School for Girls and Queen Elizabeth's Hospital school in Clifton leading the way with 100 per cent of their students earning five good GCSEs at grades A* to C.