School league tables: Government delivers its verdict on Sunderland secondary schools

The pupils at St Anthony's Catholic Girls' Academy celebrating their GCSE results in the summer.
The pupils at St Anthony's Catholic Girls' Academy celebrating their GCSE results in the summer.

The Government has today published new secondary school league tables - with most of the city's schools falling below the new Progress 8 benchmark.

In Sunderland five of the secondary schools were classed as below average for the benchmark, and a further eight were classed as well below.

A group of Southmoor Academy students delighted with their A-level results.

A group of Southmoor Academy students delighted with their A-level results.

Click here to see how your children's school performed.

The Progress 8 score shows how much progress pupils made between the end of key stage 2 and the end of key stage 4, based on results in up to eight qualifications, including English, maths, three English Baccalaureate qualifications, including sciences, computer science, history, geography and languages, and three other additional approved qualifications.

A score above zero means pupils made more progress, on average, than similar schools and below zero means they made less, but a negative progress score does not mean pupils made no progress, or the school has failed.

However, a new study from the University of Bristol has suggested that 40% of schools currently judged as underperforming would not fall into this category if pupil ethnicity, deprivation and special needs were taken into account and that the tables punish schools by ignoring student backgrounds.

Coun Louise Farthing.

Coun Louise Farthing.

Simon Marshall, Director of Education at Together for Children, said: "While Progress 8 aims to judge pupil progress from primary across a broad curriculum, it is recognised that in the North East pupil progress is below average.

"The Department for Education launched Opportunity North East in October 2018, which seeks to build on strong primary school performance with £24m pledged to raise standards across the region at secondary level.

"Our school improvement service remains committed to offering support to all schools."

On Wearside St Anthony's Catholic Girls' Academy bucked the trend and was the only secondary in the city to score above average with a Progress 8 score of 0.29, putting it top of the Government's tables for overall performance for the city.

Monica Shepherd, headteacher at St Anthony's Catholic Girls' Academy.

Monica Shepherd, headteacher at St Anthony's Catholic Girls' Academy.

Monica Shepherd, headteacher at the school, said she was once again delighted with the results, which are down to hard work by both students and staff.

She said: "We are absolutely delighted for the young people at St Anthony's.

"I think one of our strengths is in delivering the English Baccalaureate. It is something we feel we can deliver effectively to all of the young people of all abilities and backgrounds.

"We concentrate on the whole pupil, it is not just about exams, although they are obviously very important. We do hope our young people can get the best exam results, but also be really good employees."

The headteacher said the school aims to prepare young people to be good citizens.

When it comes to A-levels, it was Southmoor Academy which has taken the top overall performance spot with a Progress 8 score - calculated on progress made between the end of key stage 4 and end of A level studies compared to similar students - of 0.16.

Coun Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Sunderland City Council, said: "Schools work tremendously hard to support pupils of all abilities and from a wide range of backgrounds to achieve their potential."

She said the Opportunity North East programme will include additional training for teachers, partnerships to boost training and job opportunities.

Coun Farthing, added: "I hope the scheme will improve outcomes for our young people."

In County Durham, Durham Johnston clinched one of the top slots for GCSEs with a Progress 8 score of 0.28 and the Academy at Shotton Hall in Peterlee got a score of 0.21.

Durham Johnston was also among the top performers at A-levels with a Progress 8 score of 0.25, but was pipped to the top slot by Framwellgate School which clinched a score of 0.32.

Commenting on the secondary school performance tables, published today by the Department for Education, Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: "School performance tables are not an accurate or reliable indicator of school effectiveness.

"The Progress 8 measure that is used to compile these tables is inherently flawed. Using the grade a child achieved in primary school in two subjects is not a safe starting point against which to assess their attainment five years later. Nor does it take into account all the additional problems and factors that affect pupil attainment.

"The tables can also disadvantage schools in economically and socially deprived areas. Many good schools fall in the bottom half of the tables simply because they serve poorer communities. There is a well-established link between child poverty and academic attainment, yet performance tables fail to reflect the hard work that schools put in to try and compensate for the poverty that many children experience.

"Damian Hinds must look at the evidence, stop this inaccurate and misleading use of data and move towards accountability that gives a true picture of the work and attainment of schools."