School League Tables: Tyrone state school tops non-grammar table
The Irish News today publishes the first of its school performance lists. Education Correspondent Simon Doyle reports on the massive fall of last year's top school and the rise to the top of an all-abilities controlled secondary.
A SCHOOL that topped non-grammar league tables twice in four years has plummeted following the release of its first results since a probe into cheating.
An independent investigation looked at GCSE English and maths papers taken by pupils at St Patrick's in Keady in summer 2017.
It uncovered malpractice involving "a number of staff members across exam areas and assessment types".
Two external principals were brought in to oversee summer exams last year.
The all-abilities college, which was lauded for ending streaming, proudly sat top of the pile in 2013/14 when 80 per cent achieved five or more five A*-C grades.
Department of Education figures for 2016/17 again showed St Patrick's in first place – this time with 91.3 per cent.
New statistics, which have been made public today, show that in 2017/18 – the first series of exams taken following the probe – the pass rate fell to 65.2 per cent.
Details are included with the publication of the latest Irish News schools performance lists.
They feature the 50 non-grammars with the highest proportion of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and maths.
Improving literacy and numeracy was a key aim of Stormont executive. The goal is to increase the overall proportion of pupils with at least five GCSEs at A*-C, including GCSEs in maths and English, by the time they leave school.
For the first time since The Irish News introduced these tables in 2006, a state controlled school has placed first.
Castlederg High School in Co Tyrone describes itself as a "high performing, non-selective" post primary. It says its highest ability pupils have access to a full academic education and additional opportunities through its 'gifted and talented' provision.
More than 85 per cent of children achieved five or more good GCSEs last year.
Principal Elaine McKelvey said the results were 35 per cent above the average for schools of a similar type.
"These results are testimony to the excellent provision for learning made at Castlederg High School by a highly dedicated staff, working in partnership with very supportive parents to ensure the best possible outcome for each young person," she said.
"We are committed to offering a highly personalised approach to learning for each individual pupil where the expectation of success and provision of help and support characterises their learning experience.
"This inclusive ethos, where we actively promote the achievement of all pupils and aim to overcome, rather than be hindered by, barriers to learning, defines our approach."
Ms McKelvey said pupils felt safe, happy and motivated in a well-ordered school environment where high standards were expected and they felt proud to belong.
"With a high level of delivery in every regard, we are a school that offers not just excellent examination outcomes but a great all round educational experience," she added.
"Given the excellent reputation of our school, our catchment area has widened in recent years, and an increasing number of pupils now transfer from primary school with high AQE scores, or none, having made Castlederg High School their first choice.
"I believe our staff, in particular, must be commended for their exceptional dedication and hard work, in the midst of what is a most challenging period for educational delivery within all schools in Northern Ireland, given the shortfall in capital funding and inequitable remuneration for teaching staff."
St Kevin's College – which was an amalgamation of St Comhghall's College, Lisnaskea and St Eugene's College Roslea – placed second narrowly ahead of St Catherine's College in Armagh.
The Department of Education has said examination data should not provide a valid basis for comparing performance between schools. It takes no account of intakes of the schools or of any other factors that may affect pupil performance.
The department adds that no single measurement can constitute a fair or accurate evaluation of a school, but should be considered in the context of other information about a school and its pupils.
:: The performance table for grammar schools, based on A-level results, will be revealed in tomorrow's paper