The head teacher at Larne High says he is hopeful recent changes to the school curriculum will yield better exam results from his pupils this year.
John Armstrong was speaking in response to a recently published follow-up inspection report of the school, which highlighted a need to raise standards attained in GCSE subjects.
While commending Larne HS overall for “satisfactory” provision, and noting that the school’s strengths outweighed areas for improvement, the report indicated that the number of pupils who achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C had fallen from 26 per cent in 2011 to 18 per cent last year. It commented: “These standards are well below the average in similar schools and remain too low.”
Mr Armstrong acknowledged the need for improvement and said steps had been taken, adding: “These are challenging times for the secondary non-selective sector, which is suffering from falling pupil numbers and ability levels. It is increasingly difficult for young people to reach these artificial benchmarks set by the Government of achieving five Cs or more at GCSE. The curriculum needs to be appropriate for our pupils, which means it has to be less academic in nature and have more vocational and occupational subjects, such as carpentry and working in an office.
“Since the inspection in 2011, we have increased the number of these subjects by a third. This follow-up inspection report was only published last month, so it will not have taken account of the exam results from these new subjects. That will be factored into the next report, and I am hopeful of seeing an improvement by then.”
The inspectors deemed the quality of provision at Larne High as “satisfactory”, adding that strengths outweighed the areas for improvement. Among positive changes highlighted in the follow-up report were “arrangements for teachers to self- and peer-evaluate, a good or better standard of learning and teaching in classes and the enhancement of the curriculum”.
Maths provision remained “satisfactory”, and science assessment was elevated from “satisfactory” to “good”.
Mr Armstrong welcomed the report, adding: “Inspections can be demoralising for staff, if they feel their hard work has not been recognised, but I feel this report has been fair and it has recognised the efforts we have made to carry out improvements at the school for the benefit of pupils.”