Save St Bernard's Catholic Grammar School
2012 League Tables PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Welsh   
Sunday, 24 February 2013 23:00

The 2012 league tables for England were published recently.  Once again, St Bernard's and St Joseph's did very well.

In Slough, top of the headline category of five A to C grade GCSEs including English and Maths was Herschel Grammar with 99% of the students achieving this benchmark.  St Bernard's was in 2nd place with 98%.  Every year, a different grammar school heads this measurement and they are all within a few percent of each other.  The top non-grammar school in this category was St Joseph's with 67%, an excellent result.

The English Baccalaureate measures the percentage of students obtaining A to C grade GCSEs in Maths, English, two science subjects, a language and either History or Geography.  Langley Grammar came top with 60%, St Bernard's came third with 54% and once again St Joseph's was the top non-grammar with a score of 20%, just 4% lower than Herschel Grammar.

Indeed, this goes to show how you cannot rely on a single measure of achievement.  Herschel Grammar was in the list of the top 200 schools in England for GCSE results yet achieved only 24% in the English Bacc results.

In terms of A / AS levels, as usual St Bernard's came top by a country mile.  Perhaps this is because the students at St Bernard's take General Studies which counts towards these scores but is not accepted by the Universities.  In any event, St Bernard's has the 139th highest attainment in England in terms of A and AS level scores.  No other Slough school is in the top 200 list.

In terms of the campaign to save St Bernard's, the battle seems to have been won.  With government spending under extreme pressure there is just no budget to contemplate building large new schools.  Added to this the fine results that St Joseph's is attaining then it flies in the face of logic to amalgamate the schools.

This year has also seen the government propose and then abandon wholesale changes to GCSEs.  Unfortunately, prior to abandoning plans to make them tougher, Mr Gove was critical of GCSEs.  Personally, I believe this criticism was overdone.  In 2012, the national average for 5 GCSEs including English and Maths was 59% so already we have 41% of students failing to achieve this standard.  By making GCSEs more difficult, what was the Education Secretary hoping to achieve?  Did he want an even lower pass rate?

So too, we have to look at International comparisons.  I strongly suspect that few other countries even make their children sit externally assessed examinations at 16.  In most countries, the schools set and mark their own exams.  I believe we should stop denigrating the achievements of our teenagers.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 24 February 2013 23:50
2011 League Tables Published PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Welsh   
Sunday, 29 January 2012 17:18

The 2011 Secondary school league tables have recently been published and once again St Bernard's achieved excellent results.  The grammar schools in Slough all scored between 98% and 99% in terms of GCSE passes and, as usual, St Bernard's had a very high level of A level points per student, though this is possibly explained by the fact that St Bernard's enters its students for the General Studies A level of which the Universities tend to take little notice.

St Bernard's score in the so-called "English Baccalaureate" was down from 73% in 2010 to 56% in 2011 which on the face of it is a little disappointing.  However, the English Baccalaureate measures the percentage of students who gain a GCSE pass in maths, English, two science subjects, a language and either history or geography.  Therefore, the difference between 2011 and 2010 could simply be a measure of the number of students taking history or geography.

St Joseph's performance was markedly better than the previous year with 55% gaining 5 GCSE passes or their equivalent compared with only 31% in 2010.  With a score of 11% in the "English Baccalaureate", St Joseph's was the second best non-selective school in Slough.

Back in August 2011, the Daily Telegraph collated A level grades reported by 429 schools and these statistics show that St Bernard's achieved superb results.  Nearly 78% of its A level results were at grades A*, A or B and this put it in 63rd place.  Langley Grammar came 82nd with 74%, Burnham Grammar 109th with 69% and Baylis Court came 396th with 41%.  Some 10% of the A level grades at St Bernard's were at A* putting it in 161st place with Langley Grammar in 189th place, Burnham Grammar in 206th place and Baylis Court in 290th place.  The other Slough schools were not included.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 29 January 2012 18:36
Expression of Interest Withdrawn PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Welsh   
Monday, 06 December 2010 16:10

After months of uncertainty, today's Monday Letter from St Bernard's contained some great news:

"The Northamptonshire Diocese has informed the school that they have now officially withdrawn the Expression of Interest from the Department for Education regarding the potential merger of St Bernard's and St Joseph's.  This means that Governors can now plan for the future of the school and in due course they will be contacting parents with regards to fund raising and improving the provision for students."

Back in September, Parul Agarwal from DfE replied to my enquiry: The Sponsors have indicated to the Department that they will wish to pursue the idea of an academy in Slough should the capital investment funding become available.

Presumably, therefore, capital investment funding was not available after October's Comprehensive Spending Review.

While this is great news, St Bernard's is still short of funding and the fundamental problem remains whereby Northampton Diocese subsidises the education of the vast majority of students who live outside the Diocese.

On behalf of FaCT, can I urge any parents who are not contributing a decent amount each year to the School Fund to start doing so now.

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Last Updated on Monday, 06 December 2010 16:47
2010 League Tables Published PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Welsh   
Thursday, 13 January 2011 08:59

On 12 January 2011, the 2010 Secondary School League Tables for England were published. In terms of GCSE rankings, St Bernard's was the 157th highest ranked school and St Joseph's was the 150th lowest.  You can download a comprehensive spreadsheet of the results based on the BBC's figures HERE.

St Joseph's score of 31% (3% lower than last year) puts it in the "failing schools" category.  The threshold used to be 30% but the new government raised it to 35%.  In theory, therefore, it risks being taken over by another school or turned into an Academy.  However, its "English Baccalaureate" score was better than all but one of the non-grammar schools in Slough.

St Bernard's achieved a score of 99% in its GCSE results, in common with 3 of the 4 Slough grammar schools.  In 2010 it was Langley Grammar's turn to score 100%, just as St Bernard's did in 2009.

Of more significance, however, is that St Bernard's was by some margin the best school in Slough for A and AS levels.  It scored 1,035 points with Langley grammar in 2nd place scoring only 888.

In terms of the new "English Baccalaureate", St Bernard's and Slough Grammar topped the league of Slough schools with a score of 73%.   This made St Bernard's the 140th highest ranking school in England with Slough Grammar in 138th place.   The baccalaureate is the percentage of children scoring A* - C grades in English, Maths, two sciences, a foreign language and History or Geography.

The baccalaureate highlights some interesting differences between schools with Langley Grammar scoring 60% and Herschel Grammar only 29%.

St Joseph's scored 8% for the baccalaureate which was the 2nd highest score of the non-grammar schools in Slough.  It seems to show that unlike most of the other non-grammar schools in Slough, St Joseph's is prepared to promote the more traditionally academic GCSE subjects, even if this impacts negatively on its headline GCSE results.

The full results for Slough can be found on the BBC web site.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 16 January 2011 22:46
Zombie Academy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Welsh   
Wednesday, 15 September 2010 18:51

A new academic year begins and with it some hope that the proposal for the Catholic Academy can be laid to rest. In the first school newsletter of term, Mr McAteer states:

The uncertainty regarding the future of the school has been removed, though one is never certain of anything in education.

However, an official response I received today from Parul Agarwal at the New Academies Division of the Department for Education shows that uncertainty remains:

The Government’s capital investment for the proposed academy project has been stopped, and any decision relating to the funding of capital investment nationally will be contained in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) later this year. The Sponsors have indicated to the Department that they will wish to pursue the idea of an academy in Slough should the capital investment funding become available.

This proposal will be considered if the Sponsors decide to go ahead after the CSR decisions.

So, thanks to the Diocese and Slough Council, the academy proposal - zombie like - staggers on. For now at least, pending the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the proposal is at least lifeless.

The DfE later confirmed that it is the overall CSR of all government spending rather than the one that the DfE announced on 5 July 2010 that will determine the fate of the proposal. The results of the CSR is scheduled to be announced on 20 October 2010 - 11 days prior to the 31 October deadline for parents to apply for 2011 entry to St Bernard's.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 29 January 2012 18:28

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