Exam results on the up

NORFOLK'S teenagers made strides at both GCSE and A-level - but could only secure a mid-table finish in the league of 150 local authorities.Across the region, East Anglia's 18-year-olds posted big improvements at A-level - and climbed up the national league.

NORFOLK'S teenagers made strides at both GCSE and A-level - but could only secure a mid-table finish in the league of 150 local authorities.

Across the region, East Anglia's 18-year-olds posted big improvements at A-level - and climbed up the national league.

Norfolk and Suffolk's 16-year-olds also boosted their GCSE results, while Cambridgeshire slipped back. But all three counties found themselves further down the county pecking order as other areas improved more quickly.

In Norfolk, where disappointing recent GCSE performance has been the focus of much attention, the proportion of youngsters getting five or more A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths, rose from 44.5pc to 45pc. The national average is 45.9pc.

The efforts compare to 42pc in 2005 and 39.2pc in 2004, but the county falls from 64th to 78th in the table of local authorities.

Fred Corbett, deputy director of children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: “GCSE results have improved again in Norfolk this year and these are our best ever set of results.

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“What is particularly encouraging is the huge improvement made by some of the schools who have not done so well in the past. Schools such as Rosemary Musker, Charles Burrell, Yarmouth, Sprowston and Oriel have seen marked improvements in their results this year and that is down to the hard work and dedication of staff, parents and pupils.”

He added: “We are also very pleased that Norfolk's results over the past five years show greater improvement than most of the other counties. From 2003 to 2007 Norfolk's results for five A*-C grades, including English and maths, increased by 6.3pc compared to 3.4pc nationally.

“Clearly, we recognise that attainment needs to improve even further and the council and Norfolk's schools are determined that these results should keep rising. We are committed to increasing the numbers of pupils reaching the highest grades so that they are in line with, if not higher than, the national average.”

In Suffolk, which slumped from 38th to 55th last year, the relative decline continued to 59th place this year - despite the percentage of youngsters getting five good grades including English and maths improving from 45.9pc to 47.2pc.

Cambridgeshire, which has long been comfortably ahead of its neighbours at GCSE and A-level, suffered a surprise dip from 50.1pc to 49.2pc and from 28th to 41st among local authorities.

At A-level, Norfolk battled back from 97th place last year to 78th this year, as its 18-year-olds achieved an average point score of 694.2 - up from 670.2 in 2006.

Mr Corbett said: “In terms of the post-16 results we are pleased that overall these results compare well with other similar kinds of authorities and we congratulate the county's schools, colleges and independent schools.”

Suffolk edged up to 44th from 45th, thanks to its score moving from 715.1 in 2006 to 724.1 this time round. Cambridgeshire also improved, from 20th to 16th, with results hitting an average point score of 766 from last year's 754.

Patricia O'Brien, Suffolk's portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, said: “The results this year show that Suffolk is maintaining a good level of performance at GCSE, while A-level performance has risen faster than the national average.

“There are schools that have done particularly well and others that are facing challenges. As a county we will be looking to build on those successes and meet the challenges to provide the best education possible for pupils in Suffolk.”

Two Norfolk high schools drew personal praise from the government.

Broadland High, in Hoveton, was the 10th most improved school in England after results rose from 38pc of youngsters getting five good GCSEs including English and maths in 2004 to 63pc in 2007.

Charles Burrell High, in Thetford, was 95th most improved after results moved from 15pc in 2004 to 31pc in 2007.

Schools minister Jim Knight said: “I want to congratulate pupils and teachers at Broadland High School and Charles Burrell High School for your excellent performance in this year's GCSE results.

“It's the commitment of everyone - students, parents and staff - who work together to put learning first and to raise levels of achievement. We are delighted to see such good results. I am pleased to see that this level of improvement in GCSE results is being replicated in schools across the country.”

Eight Norfolk schools are below the government's “floor target” of a minimum of 30pc of students getting five A*-Cs including English and maths. Last year, eight were below the target.

This year, they are: Alderman Peel High, in Wells; Costessey High; Earlham, Heartsease and The Blyth-Jex, all in Norwich; Oriel High, in Gorleston; The Park High, in King's Lynn, and Rosemary Musker High, in Thetford.

The Blyth-Jex is a new addition to this year's list, while Charles Burrell High in Thetford has boosted its results to better than 30pc after being below the target in 2006.

Prime minister Gordon Brown wants every school to be above the target in five years. Nationally, the number has fallen from 1,610 in 1997 to 789 in 2006 and 639 in 2007.