Thanet schools’ GCSE results – what went wrong for some and the plan to improve

Some Thanet schools struggled with the new exams and grading system

Schools in Thanet that have seen a drop in GCSE results from this Summer’s exams after a new grading system was introduced say pupils weren’t given enough time to adjust

The grades have changed for maths and English from the traditional A/B/C marks to a new system of 9-1 grades.

The highest grade awarded is 9 with grade 4 the equivalent of a low C and grade 5 a high C/low B. English language, English literature and maths are the first subjects to use the new system, with most other subjects adopting numbers by 2019.

But the new system introduces harder maths and English exams.  Students are no longer allowed to have coursework as a component of the exam – meaning all the marks centre on the test – and in maths there are now three exams rather than two.

Nationally the proportion of C/4 grades or above awarded to 16-year-old pupils was down 0.6% to 66.3% – the lowest since 2008.

Royal Harbour Academy

At Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour School just 5% of those taking exams received a Grade 5 or above in English and Maths and 11% gained a grade 4 or above in those subjects.

According to government figures, last year 19% of pupils at the school received a C or above in English and Maths. The results are not directly comparable as the new measure is based on more stringent examinations and different grading rules.

Royal Harbour Academy head teacher Simon Pullen said: “Students sat more difficult English and Maths papers for the first time having only had a short period of time to adjust to the new and much more challenging exams.

“Students were no longer allowed to have coursework as a component of the exam, there were many more marks allocated for spelling, punctuation and grammar and the texts studied, which were no longer allowed to be taken in to the exam, were 19th Century rather than 20th Century texts.

“In maths there were three exams rather than two and the conceptual difficulty was significantly increased. Work that had previously been taught at AS Level was now included the Higher Level paper and subject matter for the Higher Level Paper had been moved down to the Foundation Level paper.

“An indication of the difficulty of the maths exam was that only 17 marks were required to get a level 4 pass on the Higher Level paper.

“It is regrettable that the government did not allow schools to have longer to adapt to the changes that were required as I know that, given time, the majority of our students will achieve in line with their targets.”

The merger

Last year falling student numbers and financial pressures marked the end for the Marlowe Academy with former head teacher Sean Hislop departing amidst a police investigation over a relationship with a former pupil. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

The school returned to county council control from its academy status and merged with Hereson and Ellington, itself made up from the merger of the boys school and the girls school in 2009, to become the RHA.

The school has historically struggled. In 2012 it was put in special measures. In 2014 it had the lowest GCSE results in the county and in its old guise as The Ramsgate School in 2002 it was branded the worst in the country with a dismal 4% pass rate.

However, last year, following the merger under the umbrella of the Coastal Academies Trust, students made significant improvement. Despite the overall 19% mark for maths and English combined, separately 38% of students gained A*-C in English and 24% in maths.

Their fellow pupils who had spent the past five years at Ellington and Hereson School had 61% of students achieving an A*-C in their English GCSE exam and 44% gaining an A*-C grade in the maths GCSE.  Overall 40% of those students were awarded the government benchmark of 5 A*-C  grades including English and Maths.

Hartsdown Academy

Hartsdown Academy in Margate also struggled with the new gradings. Six per cent of students gained a Grade 5 or above in English and Maths and 15% a Grade 4 or above in English and Maths.

Last year 28% of students gained a Grade C or better in English and maths. Again, the results are not directly comparable.

Separately 23% gained a level 4 in English and 20% did so in maths.

Plans to improve

Coastal Academies Trust, which covers isle schools including Hartsdown and Royal Harbour, executive head Paul Luxmoore says many of Thanet’s young people have suffered the consequence of the changed exam system but plans must now be made to improve the future for current pupils

He said: “In most schools, English results have been particularly badly hit, because the new exams required higher levels of literacy. In grammar schools, where students’ literacy is better, students coped with the new exams. In the high schools, those students with the lowest levels of literacy struggled to cope. This was the intention of the new GCSEs.

“Our challenge now is to improve results for all students and we will only be able to do this if we continue the trajectory of progress in literacy and numeracy from our primary schools to our secondaries. To this end, we are planning to re-structure how we deliver Years 7 and 8 in some of our secondaries.

“Our national examination system requires approximately 40% of the population to ‘fail’. I think that this is quite mad. However, Coastal Academies Trust is determined to ensure that the 40% of fails will not always be disproportionately from deprived coastal areas such as Thanet.

“We are making significant progress to improve the quality of education offered at both Hartsdown and Royal Harbour – even though this is made more challenging by the new examination system and the reduction in funding.”

Starting with primary schools

Work already undertaken includes linking with primary schools to raise literacy and numeracy levels before students enter secondary education.

Mr Luxmoore said: “We want to make more rapid progress in learning from the excellent work in primary schools, particularly at Cliftonville Primary School, one of the outstanding CAT schools, in improving literacy and numeracy more rapidly.

“We worked on this last year, with all Year 7 teachers visiting Cliftonville Primary School to understand better the standards expected in Year 6, in order to raise expectations in Year 7. This year we want to see that clearly translated into changed teaching methods in Year 7.”

The provisional results for Thanet

St George’s Church of England Foundation School

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 12%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 40%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above  6%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 41%)

Dane Court Grammar School

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 85%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 96%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above  58%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 100%)

The Charles Dickens School

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 18%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 37%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above  0%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 60%)

Chatham & Clarendon Grammar School

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 74%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 95%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above 45%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 99%)

Sandwich Technology School

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 20%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 48%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above 6%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 40%)

Ursuline College

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 27%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 53%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above 8%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 53%)

King Ethelbert School

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 16%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 44%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above 3%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 56%)

Laleham Gap School (Special School)

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 13%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 21%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above 0%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 4%)

The Royal Harbour Academy

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 5%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 11%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above 0%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 19%)

Hartsdown Academy

Grade 5 or above in English and Maths 6%

Grade 4 or above in English and Maths 15%

Ebacc at grade 5/C or above 0%

(2016 Grade C or above in English and Maths 28%)

Revised figures, which will include updates, for example due to late results, amendments following re-mark requests and pupil changes made via the schools checking exercise, will be published by the government in January.

Read here: These are the changes to the GCSE grading system – and what it means if you are going to East Kent College

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