GCSE results a tribute to hard work of pupils and teachers - and the policies of our Conservative Council
The Council has now given me a school-by-school analysis of this year’s GCSE results* and the great news is that Croydon’s schools are better than the national average and improving faster - despite the fact that many of our brightest young people go to independent schools in Croydon or grammar schools in neighbouring boroughs. Across the borough as a whole, 68% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C passes including English and maths. That’s up four percentage points in a year at a time when nationally results fell.
So what explains this improvement? First and foremost, it’s down to the hard work of teachers, support staff and pupils themselves. But it’s also down to the decisions the Conservative administration at the Town Hall has taken to close under-performing schools like Ashburton, Coulsdon High, Haling Manor and Selsdon High and open new academies in their place - and to the national politicians, Conservative and Labour, who have supported them.
Today - in Croydon at least - closing a poor-performing school is relatively uncontroversial, provided you find the right sponsor. But back in 2008, this was a hugely controversial decision. It was opposed by the teaching unions of course but also by Andrew Pelling, my predecessor as the Member of Parliament for Croydon Central; by Croydon Labour Party (including my Labour opponent at the last Election who bizarrely called Ashburton a "good community school" despite the fact that it’s results were shocking and hardly any local parents sent their children there); and by some parents, who despite the fact that their child’s school clearly needed drastic improvement understandably worried that change might make things worse before they got better.
In the event, the improvement - in terms of the day-to-day management of the schools and the behaviour of pupils in the local community - was immediate. And with the odd blip - as you would expect because some cohorts are more able than others - results have improved consistently. Take the two schools in my constituency:
- the Oasis Academy Shirley Park replaced Ashburton in September 2009. In August 2009, just 26% of Ashburton students got 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and maths; four years later that figure has more than doubled to 64%; and
- the Quest Academy replaced Selsdon High in September 2010. In August 2010, just 23% of Selsdon High students got 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and maths; three years later that figure has nearly trebled to 63%.
They haven't delivered these improvements by changing their admission criteria - the pupils who achieved these results were already at the schools when they became academies. The transformation is solely due to the change in leadership and the resulting improvements in the quality of teaching and the ethos of the schools - and it has led to these schools becoming community schools again, with local parents having the confidence to send their children there.
Nor is it just these schools, or the new Harris and Oasis academies that replaced Haling Manor and Coulsdon High, that have improved. The new academies doing better than the schools they replaced has forced middle-performing schools to raise their game.
So as well as congratulating the pupils and staff who are primarily responsible for this success, we should also give a hat-tip to the councillors who pushed through the changes that have transformed the life-chances of our young people. When Labour ran Croydon, our schools were worse than the national average. Today, they are better than the national average and improving much quicker. It is one of our Conservative Council’s greatest achievements.
* Here are the results for all the schools in my constituency, showing the percentage of pupils achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and maths and the change since last year in brackets. Congratulations in particular to Quest and Edenham for a double-digit improvement in performance:
Coloma 95% (+2)
Archbishop Tenison's 67% (+1)
Oasis Academy Shirley Park 64% (-2)
Quest Academy 63% (+17)
Shirley High 63% (-9)
Edenham 58% (+10)
Addington High 49% (+4)
St Mary's 48% (+8)