POVERTY, poor leadership, a lack of parental ambition and the grammar school system have been blamed for the poor performance of Southend Council’s secondary schools.
Ofsted rates all Southend’s nine academies, except St Thomas More High School, as “good” or “outstanding” and all, except Shoebury High School, score higher than the national average for good GCSE results.
Chase High School was downgraded to “inadequate”, the lowest Ofsted ranking, in December after the proportion of its pupils achieving five good GCSEs graded A* to C, including maths and English, fell from 40 to 25 per cent last year.
Stephen Capper resigned as headteacher of Futures Community College, where 27 per cent of pupils achieved good grades last year, in October, after Ofsted said the school was inadequate and not improving.
Cecil Jones College achieved a “satisfactory” rating in 2012, which would be “requires improvement” after Ofsted toughened up its rating system in September 2012, after being put into special measures in 2009. A third of its pupils – 34 per cent – got five GCSEs graded A* to C, including maths and English, last year.
James Courtenay, Southend councillor responsible for education and learning, said: “Those results need to improve, hence we are putting additional funding in.
“Those schools are the ones of concern.
“Ratings of good or outstanding are more of a long-term aim, but I want kids coming out with good GCSEs.
“There have been serious fluctuations in GCSE results in the wrong direction.
“We want to see an ongoing, considerable rise.”
The Conservative blamed the performance gap between the academies and the local-authority- funded comprehensives on a number of factors, including the grammar school system.
All but three of the nine academies have some form of selection and Mr Courtenay admitted the town’s four grammar schools “cream off” the top pupils.
In December, Ashley Eastwood, headteacher of the Federation of Greenways Schools, in Thorpe Bay, said too many parents put children forward for the 11-plus in a bid to avoid the local-authority-funded comprehensives.
But Mr Courtenay said having half of Essex’s eight grammar schools in the borough benefits Southend as historically up to a quarter of all grammar places in the county were taken by the towns pupils.
Out of the 608 places at the town’s four grammar schools 470 are reserved for pupils from Southend primary schools who pass the 11-plus – but just 197 gained places starting last September.
Mr Courtenay said: “The performance gap is down to the context with the grammar schools – it’s a different intake when you cream off 20 per cent.
“It’s also the different approach to the curriculum and exams, it’s the aspiration of the children and families, it’s the environment, it’s the leadership and governance and the ability to attract good teachers – all those need to be right to make it a good school.”