Exam anger at West Somerset College

Exam anger at West Somerset College

WEST Somerset College principal Gaynor Comber. PHOTO: Somerset Photo News.

Exam anger at West Somerset College

First published in News Somerset County Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

DISGRUNTLED parents are urging OFSTED to intervene at West Somerset College after a sharp drop in the number of students getting top GCSE grades.

Just 38% of students at the Minehead school achieved five A* to C grades, including English and maths, well down on last year’s 48% pass rate.

As the County Gazette went to press yesterday (Wednesday), around 200 people had signed a petition calling on OFSTED to step in, and college governors also admitted they were “gravely concerned” by the results.

The move puts pressure on college principal Gaynor Comber.

In a letter sent out to parents yesterday, the chairman and vice-chairman of governors, Martin McNeill and Anne Looney, wrote: “We remain gravely concerned at the college’s apparent inability to improve student attainment at GCSE level.

“To us as governors it is unacceptable that 60% of students should reach the end of year 11 without achieving a C grade in English.

“When we appointed the current principal in the summer of 2012 we made her fully aware of the scale of the challenge that she faced to improve standards that had been stagnating or had even declined.”

The County Gazette has spoken to some parents of students at the college.

Steve Bevers, from Minehead, whose stepdaughter has just finished her GCSEs there, said the results were a disgrace.

He added: “One of the things that really alarmed me is that there seems to be a lack of ambition from the college about the progress of the pupils.”

Mr Bevers said his stepdaughter does not want to stay at the college and wants to take her A-Levels at Richard Huish College in Taunton.

He added: “When a pupil is saying to you, don’t let me go back there, it speaks volumes.

“I’m not someone to just stick the boot in but they need to stand up and admit that something has gone wrong and they need to sort it out.”

Another parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was concerned about the behaviour of pupils and low morale among teachers and the students.

She also said she had considered sending her children elsewhere. West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said he would be arranging a meeting with the principal and parents.

He added: “We all need to sit down together and see what we can do to improve things. “I don’t think the blame lies with Gaynor Comber and the school is not a failing school.”

The County Gazette was unable to contact Mrs Comber at the time of going to press, but after the GCSE results were released last Thursday, she said in a statement that 2014 had been “a challenging year for the college”.

She added: “Overall, the results do show a decline however there are many success stories within the headline figures including 35% of students who have achieved an A or A* grade and 95% of students in the year achieved an A* to C grade across all subjects.

“We have also reduced, for the third year running, the gap between the achievement of students in receipt of pupil premium and those who are not, which is a significant achievement.”

In their letter to parents, Martin McNeill and Anne Looney say they remain confident the situation will improve.

They add: “We believe that the new faculty structure that is being introduced across the college from September 1 will strengthen the accountability of the subject teacher for the progress made by each individual student, and will enable additional support to be given where it is most needed.

“We have every confidence in the ability of our leadership team to deliver (with your help) better outcomes for our young people.

“We will, however, continue to monitor progress very closely.” They added that they would take any recommendations from OFSTED seriously when they visited and would take action if needed.

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