High-achieving academies setting the county’s pace

Bicester Advertiser: Headteacher Wyll Willis, left, and his deputy Gwyn Williams with students who helped Wallingford School record the best GCSE results among state schools in Oxfordshire. Picture: OX64812 Antony Moore Buy this photo » Headteacher Wyll Willis, left, and his deputy Gwyn Williams with students who helped Wallingford School record the best GCSE results among state schools in Oxfordshire. Picture: OX64812 Antony Moore

ACADEMIES in Oxfordshire are among the highest performing schools in the county for GCSE results.

But headteachers have said they are not certain the status is the only factor behind the grades.

Seven schools in Oxfordshire managed to get at least 70 per cent of pupils to achieve five A* to C grades, including English and maths, and all are either academies or academy convertors, according to results published today.

Simon Spiers, headteacher at King Alfred’s School in Wantage, believes the freedom academies have could make a difference.

His school scored 73 per cent last year, a two percentage point drop from the previous year, but was still the second highest in the county.

He said: “You can read into it what you like but the freedom it brings can be used in different ways.

“Here we have outstanding governance and we are very fortunate that they bring a forensic approach to the analysis of our data and therefore we are challenged continuously.”

But Didcot Girls’ School headteacher Rachael Warwick believes it is partly due to the performance of the school before it became an academy.

The school made a marked improvement in results from 56 per cent getting the benchmark in 2012 to 71 per cent last summer.

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She said: “To become an academy which is not sponsored you have to come from a strong base to begin with. The schools which are sponsored come from a lower starting point and things will gradually improve.

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Alwyn Roberts, head of St Birinus School, Simon Spiers, executive headteacher of Kind Alfred’s School, and Rachael Warwick, Head of Didcot Girls’ School

“To be honest, with the freedom we have had money wise, most of it has gone on investing in the school’s refurbishment more than specifically teaching.

“We have a very committed staff and we are continuously improving.”

She added that this summer the school was hoping for 75 per cent of its girls to meet the benchmark.

Meanwhile at St Birinus, where results went up from 59 per cent to 61 per cent, headteacher Alwyn Roberts, said: “I don’t think our academy status has changed our teaching process.

“I have been here three years and that should be starting to make an impact now.

“The governance of schools is one thing that can make a difference and they can really help a school to focus.”

Wyll Willis, head at Wallingford School, said hard work was one important factor to get good results.

He said: “It is easy for me to attract good teachers to Wallingford because the young people are easy to work with.

“But it is about working really hard to get the best results you can.

“Everybody has had to work flat out to ensure we get them.”

NATIONAL RESULTS TAKE A DIP

NATIONALLY there was a decline in the percentage of pupils achieving five A* to C GCSE grades including English and maths in 2013.
There was a decrease of 0.2 per cent from 59.4 per cent to 59.2 per cent in the number of pupils achieving the standard at the end of Key Stage 4.
According to the latest Department for Education provisional figures published in October last year, in state-funded schools there was actually a 1.4 per cent increase in the number of pupils achieving five or more A* to C GCSE grades including English and maths – from 58.8 per cent to 60.2 per cent.
The final figures will be released today.
There was also an increase in the percentage of pupils entered for and achieving the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), with 34.6 per cent of pupils entering in 2012/13 company to 25.2 per cent in 2011/12.

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