YOUNG people in and around Leamington performed better than the national average in their GCSE and A-level exams last year.
The Government’s school league tables published last week showed that almost a quarter of England’s sixth forms and colleges have failed to produce any pupils with top A-level grades sought by leading universities and more than 200 schools missed the new Government target of 40 per cent of pupils obtaining A* to C GCSEs.
But the tables also revealed that many of the schools in south Warwickshire performed well, with Campion School and Trinity School in Leamington, Castle Sixth Form in Kenilworth, Southam College and Myton School in Warwick among the top end of performers for their pupils’ A-level results.
While nationally, 594 (23.4 per cent) of the 2,540 schools teaching A-levels had no pupils with the two As and a B - the equivalent of 780 points in the UCAS points system - in the subjects recommended for top degree courses, Campion School achieved an average of 807.6 points per pupil, Kenilworth School achieved 838.8, Myton School 845.7, Southam College 854.6 and Trinity 798.2.
North Leamington School gained an average of 773.3, Aylesford School in Warwick gained 667.9 and Kineton High 671.3.
At GCSE level nationally, 59.4 per cent of pupils in both maintained and independent schools reached the Government’s target of five GCSEs (or equivalent) graded A* to C, including English and maths - up from 58.2 per cent from 58.2 per cent in 2011.
This trend was also exceeded by south Warwickshire pupils. At Kenilworth School, 85 per cent of the youngsters gained five good GCSEs or equivalent, while 32 per cent gained the English Baccalaureat; at Southam College the figures were 80 and 23 per cent; at Trinity, 73 and 19 per cent; Aylesford - 68 and 11; Kineton High - 67 and 15; and at Myton School - 64 and 22.
Fifty-eight per cent of Campion School pupils gained five good GCSEs or equivalent and five per cent the Baccalaureat, while the figures gained for North Leamington were 57 and 13 per cent.
So what have the high achieving schools done differently to yield their good results?
Chris Gabbett, Trinity School headteacher, said: “We have seen a 16 per cent point improvement since last year and a 25 per cent point improvement since 2009.
“The most pleasing thing is that the improvement is not a surprise because we know we have worked extremely hard. Last year we ramped up our focus on the quality of teaching and learning.
“We want to send a clear message that students who come here will perform outstandingly.”
Mr Gabbett said he and staff are very clear about talking to pupils about their “pathways” so that they think about how their learning is going to affect their future life. He is also keen to gain feedback from the youngsters about the way classes are structured and taught.
He said: “I speak to pupils three or four times a week to make sure they are happy with the way they are learning and that I can intervene if they are not making progress.
“If they are not, we are bold enough to crush the timetable to make sure that they do. For example, year seven are in the middle of studying nothing but maths for three weeks because they need to improve to get up to the level they need to be at at this stage.”
Mr Gabbett is also keen to encourage pupils to work beyond their timetables on projects that would help them gain job and communications skills. One example of this is 14-year-old year ten pupil Harriet Carpenter, who spent some time doing work experience with a fashion photographer and is now leading a photography project at the school to raise funds for a suicide prevention charity.
Mr Gabbett has lent the project £100 from the school’s pastoral fund and is confident Harriet and her project team will repay him once the profits come in. Harriet, who is aiming to get into a career involving photography or art, said: “I have chosen to take subjects that I really enjoy and that might help me when I am looking for a job and I did well in my mock exams. I feel revision for my GCSEs is going well because we’re given books with revision suggestions and then we talk about what we’ve done in class.”
● At Campion School, the achievement levels have come up leaps and bounds over the past few years.
Headteacher Mark Feldman said: “At GCSE level, the key headline figure for us is that the number of pupils achieving five A* to C grades in the core subjects has gone up steadily since 2009. It has now reached the national average. I am very pleased with that.
“What we did was to find ways of paying a lot more attention to improving students’ confidence and skills in English, maths and science and increasing the amount of time these subjects have on the curriculum.
“We have taken on some excellent teachers who have formed individual and small group tuition sessions as well.”
Four years ago, maths at GCSE level was Campion’s weakest subject, but it is now its strongest. Improvements have been made at A-level at the school as well.
Mr Feldman said: “Year on year we have put a lot of investment into improving our performance at sixth form level and our results now are way above the national average.
“Three-quarters of our year 13 pupils went to good universities including Russell Group universities this year.
“That was at the top end of our expectations and it has now become the measure for what we do in the future.”
● Ramjit Samra, Southam College’s headteacher, also has plenty to be pleased about with a set of excellent results standing the school close to the top performers in public schools in the country.
He said: “We are obviously really pleased with the performance of all the students. It’s down to their hard work, along with the support of staff and parents. This is the third year in a row that the results have gone up.”
He said the vast majority of last year’s school-leavers went on to university or into a career of their choice - something he puts down to the school’s focus on achievement and on developing learning skills.
He said: “We have a high expectation culture which the students benefit from. We are constantly developing our practices and we have a real focus on assessments and learning.”
Results for the independent schools in south Warwickshire were: Arnold Lodge in Leamington - 67 per cent of pupils gained five good GCSEs or equivalent and 67 per cent gained the English Baccalaureat; King’s High in Warwick - 100 per cent gained five good GCSEs or equivalent, 59 per cent gained the Baccalaureat and the average A-level points per pupil was 916.2; for the Kingsley School in Leamington, the results were 92 per cent, 59 per cent and 774.1 points; and at Warwick School, 99 per cent, 87 per cent and 1012.8 points.
To view the school league tables, visit www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance