Some parents are concerned over Spalding Grammar School’s showing in the league tables after it recorded the lowest A*-C pass rate, including English and maths, of any grammar school in the county.
The 80 per cent score was eight below the second worst performer, Boston Grammar School, while most grammars were in the nineties – like Spalding High on 97 per cent – and three hit 100 per cent.
Spalding Grammar’s average point score per full time equivalent A-level student was 800.4 – again the lowest performance of any grammar in the county – while non-selective University Academy Holbeach soared to 841.1.
One Spalding mum told us: “If the results continue in the same vein as they have done, parents will start to look to other schools in the area, which will be a great shame as my own son is happy at the school but needs to be able to achieve his full potential.”
Spalding Grammar School headteacher Nigel Ryan says the dip in performance at GCSE is partly down to English language results not being counted as they were before, unless students also sat English literature, and a series of staffing problems in the English department, which suffered two tragic deaths and saw staff on long-term sick.
He said: “When you add this to maternity leave, you may not be surprised when a Year 11 student last year said that he had 17 different English teachers during his five years at the school.”
But Mr Ryan says the department now has stable staffing and is “getting back to its previous levels of success”.
He said: “The Coalition Government decided that a grade in GCSE English language would not count in the performance table unless the students also sat the GCSE English literature exam.
“There are 12 students from last year’s cohort who have at least a grade C in GCSE English Language whose results do not count in the performance table.
“Some of our boys were not entered for English literature so they had more time to focus on English language.
“In fact 95 per cent of last year’s Year 11 cohort have a C grade or better in English.”
In four out of the five years before 2012, the school had a 100 per cent pass rate in GCSE English.
When the English department was in “turmoil” due to staffing, the school focused its experienced teachers on the exam class to maintain the 100 per cent pass rate, but Mr Ryan said “this was at the expense of the boys in Key Stage 3”.
He said: “Over the past two years these boys have come through to the GCSE exam.
“We have put on extra classes, extra teachers and extra lessons, which significantly improved these boys’ grades, but not to the same level as previously.
“We now have stable staffing in English and the current Year 11 cohort are on track to fulfil their full potential.”
Mr Ryan points to outstanding results in other GCSE subjects, including maths.
He said: “While English has been an issue for the school over the past few years, there are plenty of outstandingly successful subjects at GCSE – mathematics, engineering, ICT, biology, chemistry and physics continue to achieve well over 50 per cent A*-A at GCSE.
“The performance tables give significant weight to achievement in maths alongside English.
“Our maths GCSE results in 2013 remained strong at 53 per cent A*-A and 99 per cent A*-C, with the most able mathematicians finding additional success at FSMQ following early entry GCSE.”
Mr Ryan says Spalding Grammar School (SGS) should not be judged on one statistic alone so far as its A-level results are concerned.
And, while the school is selective at age 11, its sixth form has more than a third of students joining from other schools.
Mr Ryan accepts the average point score per pupil of 800.4 is a valid measure but says “it is not the one I would use to judge the overall performance of a sixth form”.
He explained: “The key indicators for me are –
“1. How well do the students do in relation to their potential? You will see that SGS has the highest Value Added, +0.19, in the South Holland and Boston area – in fact the highest value added in a 25 mile radius.
2. Does the sixth form enable the A-level students to access the best opportunities post 18? You will see that SGS has the highest percentage of students achieving the top grades in three or more facilitating subjects in this area.
“The school’s A-level results have always been good and show a significant upward trend in the top grades in the traditional A-level subjects, with art, chemistry, economics, English, geography, history, Latin, law, mathematics and physics achieving over 50 per cent A*-B grades.
“For me the measure of any school is not just about exam statistics.
“The type of people the students turn out to me is just as important.
“The values interests and skills will in the end be key to enabling them to have a fulfilling life.
“I believe we do an outstanding job in providing our students with an enriching and fulfilling experience, through all the sporting, music, drama, residential trips and leadership opportunities that are an integral part of our sixth form.
“The students in South Holland are fortunate to be able to access a number of very good post 16 providers, who provide a range of different opportunities for students.
“I am very wary of just using basic statistics to compare schools.”
Mr Ryan also says: “In terms of A-level, I think I need to point out that while we are a selective school at age 11 our entry requirement for the sixth form is no different than anyone else’s.
“We have a well-established, inclusive sixth form with more than a third of students joining our sixth form from other schools.”