SCHOOLS are celebrating their progress at GCSE and A-level following the release of annual league tables.
The majority of schools in the region recorded improvements at Key Stage Four and Five, with some above the national average.
On average, 54.7 per cent of Suffolk’s school pupils achieved five or more A*-C GCSEs including English and maths – a three per cent increase on the previous year. The national average is 58.9 per cent.
Emerging top of the class in both tables in the county were students at St Benedict’s Catholic School, in Bury St Edmunds.
The school has been first in Suffolk for A-level for the last three years but this is the first time it has topped the GCSE league table.
Head Hugh O Neill said: “It’s a source of enormous pride that St Benedict’s should have achieved this remarkable level of success.
“Clearly, this reflects the tremendous efforts made by all concerned – students, teachers, support staff, parents.”
Referring to the controversial proposed switch to two-tier Catholic education, he added: “It hasn’t been a good year in one way for the Catholic school pyramid in West Suffolk – there has been a lot of division about the future.
“These results remind us, if we needed reminding, that we have a lot to lose. We want to see outcomes like these for our students for years to come.”
County Upper, in Bury, highlighted its ‘vast extra-curricular programme’, which gives students ‘an excellent all round experience as well as very strong examination results’.
Head Vicky Neale said: “Research shows that busy young people do better academically and once again we have proved that.
“In addition to the huge success shown on the indicators in the tables, I’m particularly pleased that every student gained at least five GCSEs and that 35 per cent gained at least five A*/A grades.
“I’m grateful to our staff and those in the middle and first schools for helping our students achieve these excellent results.”
King Edward VI, in Bury, noted its progress was up four per cent on last year.
Head Geoff Barton said: “We’re especially pleased with the outstanding achievements of our sixth form students, eight of whom have received offers from Oxford and Cambridge universities.
Pointing out the limitations of league tables, he added: “Parents and governors know that all this data only says so much about a school and we stick firmly to our belief that a great school should provide an exceptional range of other opportunities for all students – something that can’t be measured in mere statistics.”
Culford School recorded its ‘best ever’ results at A2-level with more than 50 per cent of the grades at A*/A.
Dr John Guntrip, deputy head, said: “At GCSE, again virtually half the grades were A*/A with 76 per cent A*-B.
“We believe in stretching and challenging our pupils to even greater heights year on year and this is really showing dividends.
“There were a whole host of outstanding individual performances with many pupils securing top university places including four entries to Oxford and Cambridge.
“These remarkable results illustrate how much hard work pupils and teachers put into preparing for these examinations.”
Mildenhall College of Technology emphasised its achievements in terms of value added results, which is the progress pupils make between the ages of 11 and 16.
Head Susan Byles said: “I’m extremely pleased to see that we are one of the top six schools in Suffolk for value added results, placing us on a par with St Benedict’s Catholic School in this measure.
“This confirms that pupils are making excellent progress. I’m proud to see that we are performing better on this measure than other local schools are.
“The 12 per cent increase that we saw in GCSE results last year has been sustained and this, together with the fact that our A-level results have risen dramatically in the space of a year, suggests that we are moving firmly in the right direction.”
Stowupland High School stressed that the figures ‘represent the achievements and life chances of young people’.
Head Karen Grimes said: “Ninety four per cent of our students achieved three plus A-level passes and this is over 10 per cent above county and national averages.
“Our increase in points per entry at Key Stage Five places us in the top five improving schools in the county.
“At Key Stage Four, progress measures continue the upward trend with high value added at GCSE and more than 80 per cent of students making three plus levels of progress in English.
“This is an exceptional achievement for students and will contribute greatly to their future well-being.
“The real priority at Stowupland is to ensure that all students are enjoying high quality programmes of study and developing a range of personal and social skills which will equip them for life.”
Her words were echoed by Stowmarket High School.
Head Keith Penn said: “Our students did well last summer and I’m pleased to see the league tables reflected that.
“In terms of our sixth form students, those figures shot up into the top few schools in the county.”
In Norfolk, 55.4 per cent of pupils achieved five or more A* - C GCSEs including English and maths compared to 52.3 per cent the previous year.
The leadership team at Thetford Academy is aiming for better results following a turbulent period last year.
Principal Cathy Spillane said: “I don’t think there’s any excuses for not performing well in the league tables or as well as other schools.
“We had a very difficult first year as we merged two schools, the principal resigned and the whole of the leadership team changed. If you have all of that going on in one year it’s going to have an effect.
“We’re confident this year we will be able to deliver better results for Thetford’s children.
“Ofsted has just visited us and they were happy with the leadership team and what we’ve put in place to improve the results.
“Schools can change so very quickly particularly in academies where you have the freedom to spend money where you think it will make the most impact, which is what we’ve been looking to do.”