No longer the worst? Most Norwich schools see GCSE league table improvement

Open Academy saw the biggest increase in Norwich of students achieving the GCSE 'gold standard'. Pho

Open Academy saw the biggest increase in Norwich of students achieving the GCSE 'gold standard'. Photo: Bill Smith

Schools in the Norwich area have bucked the national trend and seen GCSE results improve - a year after the city was branded the worst in the country.

League table data for 2013-14 showed the headline pass rate rose at nine state-funded high schools around the city, and fell at three.

• How did your school do? GCSE and A-level league tables for 2013-14 published

It came despite government league table reforms which saw results fall across much of the country, and made direct comparison of 2013 and 2014 results difficult.

The Open Academy recorded the biggest improvement in Norwich, with 42% of pupils achieving the gold standard of at least five GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths, compared to 34% the year before.

City of Norwich School and Hellesdon High School both saw their headline rates go up by 7 percentage points.

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However, the pass rate at Ormiston Victory Academy, in Costessey, plunged 32 percentage points - one of the 15 most dramatic falls in England.

It is believed league table reforms, a shift to a more academic curriculum, and the departure of almost all members of its senior leadership team to the Inspiration Trust, contributed to its difficulties.

A spokesman for the school's sponsor, Ormiston Academies Trust, said that 'this year represents a turning point that will be for the benefit of children in the longer term.'

Two schools in Norwich failed to meet the government's target of a least 40% of pupils achieving the gold standard: City Academy Norwich, where 29% of pupils achieved the gold standard, up from 24% in 2013, and Sewell Park College, whose 34% figure was a marginal improvement on the 33% it recorded in 2013.

Thorpe St Andrew School saw the proportion of pupils gaining the GCSE gold standard fall by 10 percentage points, but it was also the top-rated school in the Norwich area for value added, which measures how much pupils' performance improved over the course of their time at high school.

Two particular reforms to the GCSE league table system caused a large amount of volatility in the results recorded at individual schools.

For the first time, only a pupil's initial attempt at an exam, rather than the best result they achieved when re-sits were considered, was included in the headline figures, in a government effort to discourage schools entering children for exams multiple times.

Another government reform saw thousands of vocational qualifications stripped from the figures, in an effort to encourage more academic rigour.

Independent schools were hit by another change, which saw a number of international GCSE qualifications excluded, leaving Norwich School and Norwich High School for Girls recording a zero figure, despite the high achievement of their pupils.

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