The year they moved the GCSE goalposts

GCSE joy at Brighton and Hove High School
GCSE joy at Brighton and Hove High School

For a generation of teenagers, it was the most important day of their academic careers. So far.

For a generation of teenagers, it was the most important day of their academic careers. So far.

For hundreds of hardworking teachers in Brighton and Hove, it was the culmination of days, weeks, and months of hard work. Again.

And it all came down to a sealed envelope and a single page of A4. As always.

Only this time, for the first time, there was one question on everyone’s lips: Who moved the goalposts?

The answer, of course, is the politicians, the bureaucrats, and the examination bosses - who are probably enjoying their summer holidays. Somewhere else.

The truth is that rule changes affected benchmark GCSE performance at schools in the city – and the country - as thousands of students celebrated, to varying degrees, their GCSE results.

Among state schools in Brighton and Hove, Brighton Aldridge Community Academy was the only one to record an improvement in the benchmark of five good GCSEs: A* to C grades, including English and maths.

The Brighton and Hove average dropped to 54% from 62.6% a year ago. [Click here for results of individual schools.]

Dorothy Stringer School recorded the best results in the state sector as 65%achieved five good GCSEs, compared with 72and% last year. The school said that 27% of the grades were A* or A.

Richard Bradford, the headteacher, said: “I am proud of the students who worked hard and challenged themselves do their best.

“Many are celebrating excellent personal academic achievements at all levels.

“I would also like to thank staff and parents who have worked incredibly hard.”

At Hove Park School, the benchmark figure was 62% - down on tlast year’s 65%.

Derek Trimmer, the headteacher, said: “Students have improved their performance across the board at Hove Park School.

“Student progress has made huge leaps forward, with pupil premium and gifted and talented students the most successful.

“In English and maths the number of students making three levels of progress during their time at secondary school – probably the fairest way to measure a school’s effectiveness – has risen to 12 percentage points above the national average in English and just above the national average in maths.”

At Cardinal Newman Catholic School, 61% of students achieved five good GCSEs, compared with 73% last year.GCSECardinal1

At Blatchington Mill School, the benchmark figure was 59%, compared with 72% last year.

Janet Felkin, the headteacher, said: “The school results are very different to usual due to changes in the way that schools are measured.

“The turbulence caused by sweeping changes to government league tables affected the headline figures for the school but crucially made no difference to the students or their grades.

“Our staff and students have worked extremely hard to achieve these wonderful grades.These students have achieved more top grades than ever before. We knew the changes to league tables this year would not allow us to compare favourably to last year but, considering student success individually, demonstrates a very positive picture indeed.”

GCSEPacaUSETHISThe Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) reported that 53% of pupils achieved five good GCSEs, down from 60%.

James Fox, the principal, said “I am extremely proud of both our students and teaching staff, who have worked hard this year to keep up the improvement in academic standards that we have made at the academy.

“After being named in the top 10 improved schools in the country in 2013 due to a 21% rise in GCSE results, with 60% students gaining 5 A*-C grades including English and Maths in 2013 up from 39% in 2012, this year’s results show last year’s achievement was far from a one off.

At Longhill High School, the headline result dropped just one percentage point to 49%, from 50% last year.GCSEPaca1

At Patcham High School, 49% of pupils managed five good GCSEs, down from 55% last year.

At Brighton Aldridge Community Academy, 48% of pupils achieved five good GCSEs - up from 46% last year.

At Varndean School, the figure this year was also 48%. William Deighan, the headteacher, said: “We will analyse the variations that have happened nationally to discover the reasons for this.”

Brighton and Hove High School said that its girls were “celebrating outstanding success at GCSE with 58% of all results at A* or A grades and a pass rate of 97%A* to C”.

Jennifer Smith, the headteacher, said: “The governors and I are delighted with our girls’ success. They have worked tremendously hard and it is well-deserved.”