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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 00:02 GMT
Christian school tops the league table
A heavily over-subscribed comprehensive with a Christian ethos has beaten every other state and independent school in England to head this year's league table of GCSE exam performance.
All the students at the Coopers' Company and Coborn School in Upminster, in the outer London borough of Havering, got at least five good GCSEs or their vocational GNVQ equivalents.
The 100% achievement was also managed by dozens of other schools. The Essex school took top slot by virtue of having had more students taking the exams.
The head teacher, Dr Davina Lloyd, attributed their success to personal targets, a mentoring system, and a hard-working, experienced teaching staff.
The Coopers' Company and Coborn is not a specialist school.
Paying tribute to the students and staff, the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, nevertheless said she wanted to see more secondary schools try for specialist status.
One of them - Thomas Telford City Technology College in Telford, Shropshire - managed to repeat last year's success in having all its students on top GCSE/GNVQ exam grades - the first all-ability state school to achieve that standard.
Most of the other high-fliers are independent and selective schools.
At advanced level the tables are also dominated as ever by independent and selective schools, with top slot going to North London Collegiate School in Edgware.
Its 100 girls averaged 9.5 points per advanced level exam.
Comparisons with previous years are not possible because the Department for Education has this year used a combined points score for A/AS-levels and Advanced GNVQs - the last of the "old style" exams.
The Tiffin Girls' School in Kingston-upon-Thames is the leading state selective school on 8.7 points.
The gender gap is evident again with Watford Grammar School for Girls - despite its name the top non-selective secondary - beating Watford Grammar School for Boys with 7.7 points over 7.6.
The girls' head teacher, Helen Hyde, said pupils were set stretching targets in each subject while teachers focused on their strengths and weaknesses.
"For me personally, I do think girls learn better in an environment where girls can be girls," she said.
A state school part-funded by a millionaire Conservative peer is recognised by the government as the "most improved" in its GCSE/GNVQ results.
Harris City Technology College in Croydon, south London, was founded in 1990 with the help of a £1.25m donation by Lord Harris of Peckham.
The proportion of its pupils gaining five good GCSEs or the vocational equivalent has gone from 36% to 88% in four years.
The 750 schools that get extra money under another government scheme, Excellence in Cities, also improved their GCSE/GNVQ results at a higher rate, with an increase of one percentage point on last year.
A total of 104 of the 150 local education authorities increased the proportion of their youngsters getting five top GCSE/GNVQs.
The percentage of 16 year olds leaving with no qualifications at all fell slightly from 5.6% to 5.5%.
"These results show that diversity and our intervention policy in failing authorities and schools are working," Ms Morris said.
"They give added strength to our White Paper proposals, including our intention to increase the number of specialist schools to 1,500 by 2005.
"The work will not stop there - we will shortly publish an Education Bill which will show that standards are still at the centre of this government's agenda."
But the Liberal Democrats said those schools with the lowest exam results tended to have the biggest proportions of pupils living in poverty.
Having contacted many of those which performed badly last year, the Lib Dems said they were struggling with high numbers entitled to free school meals, high truancy rates, and the need to expel almost three times the national average of violent and disruptive pupils.
They also had teacher vacancy rates almost four times the national average.
The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart, said: "Once again the government trots out tired old secondary school performance tables that are past their sell-by date.
"It remains totally oblivious to the fact that they have been abolished in Northern Ireland and Wales.
"The raw scores for all schools tell us nothing about the value added between entry to secondary school and GCSE."
But this year for the first time - in the 10th year of league tables - the government has published the results of a pilot study involving 202 schools, aimed at measuring the "value" they add to their pupils' achievements.
"Performance tables provide an invaluable and easily accessible source of information to parents and the wider community," Ms Morris said.
"However, we have listened to concerns that the existing tables only tell part of the story about school performance."
The "value added" measures try to track the improvement pupils show from age 11 to 14, and from 14 to 16.
The aim is to have a fully-functioning national measure in time for the 2002 tables.
The table below shows the 99 "most improved" schools in 2001: the percentage of pupils getting top grades over four years, followed by the total improvement.
Specialist schools are marked A, S, T, or L - for Arts, Sport, Technology, or Languages.
Click the name of any school to go to its page in the main tables.
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