OFFICIAL figures today confirmed that 2015 was the toughest GCSE year for many a moon for Wigan schools.
For the first time in more than a decade, league tables show that more secondaries in the borough experienced a drop in the benchmark five or more A* to C grades (including English and maths) than saw a rise.
Tougher exams, a greater concentration on course work and the gradual scrapping of November sittings of the exams - so that candidates get two bites at them - have all led to an end in what was a long, upward trajectory for grades.
Overall the borough’s A* to C average - also known as 5EM - came down slightly last summer to 57.6 per cent from the 2014 average of 58 per cent, but that is still nearly four per cent higher than the national average.
The usual schools were vying for top position in the borough standings and this time round it was Standish High School which won out with 79 per cent of exams sat there achieving at least a C.
It knocked St Peter’s High from its customary place at the head of the table, although the Orrell school’s 78 per cent was hardly a disaster.
The 2014 5EM for Standish was a very untypical 59 per cent.
But that is because, unlike other schools during the last academic year which pulled out, it pressed ahead with entering students for November exams as well as May. Last year’s grades were the first to be judged only on their first sitting.
When the exams sat by Standish pupils in the following summer are taken into account, the figure goes up to 72.
But that still means their grades in 2015 rose by six per cent when most schools were seeing grades fall.
Standish’s deputy headteacher Lindsay Barker said: “We are clearly delighted with the figures. These were outstanding results which reflect the progress each student made in 2015. They also reflect the hard work of staff, governors and parents working together with the students. We are very ambitious for all our students and hope for even greater success this coming year.
“Because of these results a lot of our students have been able to achieve the destinations of their choice post-16, including the sixth form colleges they wanted to attend.”
November entry exams have now been scrapped.
In all six schools saw their grades rise last summer, spectacularly so in some cases. Hindley High’s five or more higher grades figure shot up from 40 to 54 while Bedford High at Leigh rose from 48 to 57.
But 11 schools’ 5EM average went down, some by quite significant amounts. Cansfield’s dropped from 63 to 47, The Deanery’s fell from 69 to 58 and Hawkley Hall High School, which had enjoyed a terrific improvement in grades over several years to become one of the borough’s best and turned into an academy in the process, saw the A* to C figure plummet from 75 per cent to 57.