Burnley bottom of Lancashire's GCSE league table
Updated 10:13am Thursday 6th March 2014 in News
LANCASHIRE County Council has ‘ruined education in Burnley’, the town’s MP has said.
Gordon Birtwistle hit out after a new report revealed just 44.4 per cent of Burnley secondary school children gained five GCSEs at grades A* to C - almost 16 per cent below the national average.
Burnley was the worst performing borough in Lancashire at both GCSE and Key Stage Two level in 2012-13.
The second worst was Pendle with 51.3 per cent of students passing five GCSEs at grades A* to C.
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On the Burnley results Mr Birtwistle said: “The county council have to hang their heads in shame for failing children and parents in Burnley.”
The Lib Dem MP claimed LCC’s £250million Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project, launched in 2005 to re-organise secondary schools in Burnley and Pendle, had forced parents to look elsewhere for ‘quality education’.
Burnley’s 2012-13 GCSE attainment rates, which include English and maths, fell by 1.3 per cent on 2011-12's results - 16.5 per cent short of the Lancashire average of 60.9 per cent.
But headteachers have defended the town’s schools and said progress was being made.
David Burton, headteacher at Sir John Thursby Community College, said: “The full BSF vision for Burnley will take some time to be realised but the important thing is that people get involved in making it happen.
“It is easy to stand on the side and criticise but we all need to be the change we want to see in Burnley."
Mr Birtwistle said parents were voting with their feet by sending children to schools in Blackburn, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley.
He said: “They come up to me on a regular basis and say that schools in Burnley are not up to scratch. They are not delivering young people with the education they need to move on in life.
“LCC has let Burnley down very badly. They have known about this problem ever since they merged all the schools. Before that, we had really good schools.
“They have ruined education in Burnley. It has literally collapsed. Their complete incompetence is to blame for all of this, I hope they are aware of that.
“The pupils leaving would bring the figures back up. I want them to stay in Burnley and create wealth in Burnley. LCC’s rank incompetence at delivering a successful secondary education in Burnley has prevented that.
“Doing five schools at once literally destroyed the educational attainment and experience of young people in Burnley and now we send ten buses a day to the rest of Lancashire.”
But Richard Varey, headteacher at Blessed Trinity RC College, revealed that his school was fully subscribed for the next academic year.
Mr Varey said: “We have improved two years in a row by five per cent each year, but we’re not where we want to be and hopefully we’ll get our best ever results next year.
“We’re really pleased that we’ve improved on what St Hilda’s and St Theodore’s were achieving.
“I think Burnley is a good town with good youngsters. I think change takes some time to imbed but I don’t think the school experience is about buildings, it’s about good teachers and engaged pupils.
“There is no reason to leave Burnley to find a good school. This is the best place I’ve worked in 25 years of teaching.”
Padiham’s Shuttleworth College was the second worst performing school in the borough, with 33 per cent of pupils attaining five GCSEs at grades A* to C, just ahead of Hameldon Community College, which saw 32 per cent of pupils hit the same targets.
Bob Wakefield, headteacher at Shuttleworth College, said: “East Lancashire does face challenges many areas don’t.
“Obviously we are working hard to improve fast but clearly we’ve got a distance to go yet. We need to make sure we improve.
“BSF was before my time but I know other heads say it was a difficult time for schools. It did take quite a while to get on the right track, but hopefully we will close the gap with other areas soon."
According to a report going before the county council’s education scrutiny committee next Tuesday, Pendle was the second worst performing borough in Lancashire, with 51.3 per cent of students passing five GCSEs at grades A* to C.
Ian Adlington, acting head teacher at Marsden Heights Community College, Nelson, said: “You have to consider the levels of deprivation in our catchment area.
“Literacy levels are low, English as an additional language is an issue among the Eastern European and Asian background pupils, but as I said, we as a school are improving.
“The general mood here is that we’re moving upwards. Over time there have been steady improvements.
“When BSF was introduced, it was about more than simply the improvement of students’ results, it was to address social unrest.
“I think it’s too complex to link that to exam results.”
County Councillor Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools at LCC, said: “Last summer's disappointing secondary results were largely due to lower grades in English exams following further changes to the exam system and an increase in the marks required for a grade C, which particularly affected C/D borderline students.
“However, I am reassured by figures that show the brightest students in Burnley schools do as well in their exams as anywhere else in the county.
“We are working closely with schools in Burnley to help raise attainment and there are positive signs about the impact of the schools' hard work on the coming year's results.”
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