Norwich schools in England's elite

Tracey GrayTwo Norwich schools, including one recently taken off special measures, are blazing a national trail after being named among the most improved in the country.Tracey Gray

Two Norwich schools, including one recently taken off special measures, are blazing a national trail after being named among the most improved in the country.

Costessey High and Sprowston High have been listed among the top 200 schools for improving the number of students gaining five A*-C grades including English and maths at GCSE over the past four years.

They were not the only city area schools to shine in figures published today for the 2009 GCSE and A-levels, with The Open Academy on Marryat Road, Heartsease, doubling the proportion of students getting five-plus A*-Cs including English and maths from 16pc to 32pc.

Sewell Park College on St Clement's Hill in Norwich improved by 13pc from 25pc to 38pc, while Taverham High on Beech Avenue improved by 9pc to 65pc.

Meanwhile, Norfolk hit the magic mark of 50pc of all students getting the five or good grades, including the key subjects of English and maths. It improved from 47.9pc in 2008 and sits 78th of the 152 local authorities in England.

However, Earlham High School, which closed in September and became City Academy Norwich, features among the worst schools for its 2009 GCSE results, the number of persistent absentees and the amount it improves its students from age 11 to 16.

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However, as reported in the Evening News on Monday, since becoming an academy there has been a dramatic improvement in performance and attendance, along with a surge in applications to join the school from September.

The figures, published today by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), detail GCSE and A-level results at each school in the country for 2009, from which the school league tables are constructed.

Costessey High, in Middleton Crescent, Costessey, which has 962 pupils on roll, was placed on special measures from November 1999 to May 2002 and again in 2007.

It was removed from special measures in June 2009 and has now been listed as the 121st most improved school in the country for nearly doubling the percentage of students who gained five GCSE A*-C grades including English and maths, from 23pc in 2006 to 41pc in 2009.

The school now looks set to become an academy after the Ormiston Trust was accepted as sponsor for the �20m plus project.

Headteacher Philip May said: 'This is very good news for us. Clearly we had a major crisis three years ago but we had already started to address that before we were placed on special measures and we have carried that on over the years.

'With strong leadership, strong heads of department and strong staff, the students began to see they could do it, they began to believe it was possible.'

Speaking about some of the initiatives which have helped the school to improve, he added: 'We published the progress of students in the GCSE years, 10 and 11, on the walls of their classroom, so they could all see for themselves what they had to do and what they needed to achieve.

'The teaching has also got better. We had a lot of new teachers come to the school in 2007, who had to get to know the school and the students. Once those relationships had been built up, they could feedback to the students who could do see what they needed to do.'

Sprowston High School, based in Cannerby Lane, was named as 156th most improved for its GCSE results over the past four years.

It raised the percentage of students who gained five A*-C grades including English and maths, from 37pc in 2006 to 53pc in 2009.

In its latest Ofsted inspection, which took place at the beginning of December, the school, which has 261 pupils on roll, was rated as satisfactory overall and praised for the improvements made since the last inspection in 2007.

Headteacher Andrew John said: 'Since 2006 Sprowston High has shown substantial year on year increases, and is delighted that this year's results put Sprowston into the top 25pc of schools nationally in terms of value-added scores.

'This achievement has been due to the determined and concerted effort from students, their families, teachers and support colleagues - fantastic team work.

'Combined with the support we receive from Norfolk County Council's children's services department, this teamwork and sense of purpose contributes to the continued success of the school.'

t To see the tables, plus more stories about individual schools, pick up today's paper.