Celebrating top marks

TOPPING the tables for two years running is no easy feat, but high-flying pupils at King’s School seem to have no trouble putting Pontefract on the league table map.

Headteacher Julie Craig says she is “delighted” after the Mill Hill school smashed exam targets again with 73 per cent of students leaving in 2011 with five A*to C grades at GCSE, including English and maths.

It is the second time the school’s high achievers came top in the Five Towns after the class of 2010 achieved 65 per cent in the same category.

Mrs Craig, who has led the school for 11 years, said: “In 2010 we got the best in the area and we were elated the students had done so well. The class of 2011 was different and our target was 70 per cent which was quite ambitious, but we broke it. The class of 2012 already has some GCSE results in the bag from early exams and the challenge at the moment is whether they can equal or better it.

“On paper the target is 71 per cent which is extremely challenging, so if we get that, we will have done remarkably well.”

Almost three quarters of King’s School pupils left with high grades in core subjects such as English and maths, breaking the national target of 57 per cent.

She said while some schools achieved almost 100 per cent in the ‘five A* to C grades in GCSE or equivalent’ category a single ‘equivalent’ course could amount to four or five GCSEs.

Mrs Craig said: “The A* to C measure is valid because it recognises the skills of youngsters but what it doesn’t recognise necessarily is skills across a broad range – it doesn’t always prepare children for higher level learning and can be a very narrow route.

“If you’re including English and maths in your measure, these are fundamental skills people need for the future. When they have got an A* to C in these skills, you know they’ve attained a certain level to move on.”

Around 90 per cent of the 2011 class have gone onto higher education and as well as achieving top scores – second only in the district to Outwood Grange Academy in Wakefield – almost a third of students achieved the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) which requires students to study English, maths, science, a modern foreign language and either history or geography.

But Mrs Craig claims the 28 per cent Ebacc score is almost accidental as students already take a broad range of subjects in both “traditional” academic subjects and optional routes.

She said: “If you look at the Ebacc results it was almost by chance that students got almost twice the national average, because we have always stuck to a broad range of GCSEs to secure open doors for the future. We have left it up to the children – if they want to take a certain option, they don’t have to take the Ebacc. I don’t think children should specialise too quickly, they should pursue things they’re interested in.

“I’m really optimistic and hopeful that youngsters will continue to focus and be the best they can be. I think the pressure on them is even greater and learning should be about wanting an education and love of learning, rather than jumping through hoops.”