Secondary schools in Mid Sussex ranked above the national average in the latest GCSE league tables.
All schools taking standard GCSEs ranked above the national average of 53.4 per cent of students achieving five A*-Cs including English and Maths.
Impressive percentages for students at Burgess Hill School for Girls (80), Downlands Community College (72), Hurstpierpoint College (96) followed the national trend of a slight decline from the year before.
But Oakmeeds Community College (54), Oathall Community College (66), St Paul’s Catholic College (83) and Warden Park (68) all improved upon the previous year’s results.
The average for the seven schools is 74 per cent, 20 above the national average.
And the improvement in five schools comes despite many headteachers’ claims the exams are harder this year.
Rose Hetherton, headteacher at Downlands, said: “We are delighted with an outstanding set of results, especially given the volatility and the trends this year.
“What the tables show is outstanding progress given the starting point.”
Addressing the drop from 100 per cent last year to 96 per cent this year, she added: “It can change depending on the children, we don’t know what we’re going to have coming through the door each year.”
Downlands scored 1019.8 in value added to students.
The head teacher said: “The value added should be at 1000 and we’re 20 above that, which is brilliant. We had a smug smile and said: ‘Yes! We thought we did well!’.
“The kids are motivated to do their own learning and we have a fantastic, outstanding bunch of teachers who work tirelessly.”
But the headteacher was critical of the new system and tables.
She continued: “They’ve changed the grade boundaries and definitely got harder.
“They changed the marking after exams had been done. In one controlled assessment exam they changed the boundary by six on the C-D borderline.”
This dropped 12 Downlands students from a C to a D, or 6% of all students.
“It shouldn’t happen, it’s demoralising,” she added.
“It’s unprofessional, and the staff feel like they’ve let the children down.”
Head teacher at Hurstpierpoint College Tim Manly is critical of league tables.
Though he is ‘delighted’ with excellent GCSE results, he said league tables are ‘increasingly unreliable as a means of rating a particular school, especially those in the independent sector’.
“Indeed, one can argue that some of those sitting at the bottom of the table are being penalised for trying to provide their pupils with rigorous exams (IGCSEs) which will prepare for them for further study,” he explained.
“At Hurst, our overriding ambition is for individual pupils to achieve their absolute personal bests and we will always try to do the right thing by them irrespective of league tables or politics.”
After being placed in special measures last year, headteacher at Oakmeeds Colin Taylor was celebrating going against national trends and improving results.
He said: “We are on track to have special measures removed soon. Oakmeeds went against the downward national trend for last year and made an improvement in the headline GCSE figures.”
The school’s GCSE results improved by four per cent compared to the previous year despite what Mr Taylor described as the ‘increased difficulty of the examinations overall’.
Schools also dropped due to some exam results not counting, such as retakes.
Colin continued: “Our accredited results would increase by a further 1% if the “best” entry data was allowed rather than first entry only as some students achieved C grades in English through double entering but these were not able to be credited to the college in the performance tables.
“English and Maths overall results also improved as did the rates of ‘expected progress’ in these subjects, against a backdrop of falling standards in Maths nationally.”
The school is now up to speed with national averages, rather than the 10% below average in 2013.
“We also considerably closed the gap on the West Sussex average figure. This year we expect to make even greater levels of improvement and to be above both the national and West Sussex averages for 2015,” he added.
Value added to students at other schools included 973.1 at Oakmeeds, 994.9 at Oathall, 1027.5 at St Paul’s and 1011.9 at Warden Park.
Other schools’ figures are not complete.Ardingly College was given zero per cent in five A*-Cs including English and Maths as some exams taken by its students were not included in government statistics.
Head teacher at St Paul’s Rob Carter celebrated yet again being ranked among the top schools in the country.
He said:“We are very pleased to continue to maintain the outstanding results at St Paul’s.
“Over the last three years this has placed us consistently in the top 15% nationally at GCSE and A level.
“We also have worked widely in supporting school improvement as a Teaching School and by leading the Sussex Maths Hub. At the heart of this is a commitment to continually challenge ourselves to improve by looking at best practice nationally and internationally.”
Headmistress of Burgess Hill School for Girls Mrs Kathryn Bell agreed league tables do not given an accurate account of a school.
She said: “The performance tables fail to deliver an accurate picture of the actual GCSE results achieved in the summer of 2014.
“The tables do not take into consideration that we are proud to have very successful and highly achieving international students taking the globally accepted rigorous IELTS examination in English Language. As recently reported in the national press the tables also do not include the rigorous IGCSE examination results.
“To give clarity and accuracy to the tables to be of use as a performance indicator and for comparative use, the results should be for all those students sitting Maths and English GCSE, when our results would be at 97%. “Added to this, much depends on the size of the cohort. The performance tables fail to give a true picture of the outstanding results achieved at Burgess Hill School for Girls where 100% of students entering GCSE’s gained A* to C grades.
“Given the reliability of the data within the performance tables perhaps the headline figure of percentage A and A*’s would be of more value. At Burgess Hill School this figure is an outstanding 70% A and A* grades.”
See the full tables at www.education.gov.uk
n Average point score for each student is calculated by adding points for each grade achieved, from 58 points for an A* to 16 points for a G grade.
The average point scores for each student in Mid Sussex, as reported by The Telegraph, includes Burgess Hill School for Girls (398.3), Hurstpierpoint College (374.3), Oakmeeds Community College (352.3), Oathall Community College (377.5), St Paul’s Catholic College (474.5), Warden Park School (413) and Downlands Community School (398.1).