Stunning GCSEs at Ballard School - a 5 year high!

Ballard School, the non-selective co-educational independent school in New Milton, has seen another hugely successful year for GCSE results with 89% of the 2017 cohort achieving at least five ‘passes’ at A* to C grades (including English and Maths graded at 4 and above) - well in excess of the National average and at the forefront of non-selective schools in the area.  The 89% success is 4% higher than the ‘gold standard’ achievement of last year and the best for 5 years (since the new-style GCSEs began).  Some 97% of pupils achieved grade 4 and above in Maths and 94% passed IGCSE English with 44% graded A* or A. Stunning results!

Headmaster, Alastair Reid, said: ‘Although so much emphasis is placed on these results, we cannot judge our school or our pupils on GCSE results alone.  I congratulate our pupils and staff on their success but I am also incredibly proud of the all-round contribution Ballard makes to their education.  We are a non-selective school and whilst many focus on A* and A grades (and now grades 7, 8 and 9 in Maths and English), some of our most pleasing results are where students have excelled well beyond their and our expectations.  This group now go off to their Sixth Forms (and two with scholarships) as citizens who can hold their heads high ready to take on the challenges of the next stage in their lives. They have brought credit to themselves, their families and their School’.

Individual subject results were also spectacular as follows:

100% pass rates in Art (50% A*/A), Dance (all A), Drama (all A/B), Expressive Arts (all A/B), Music (85% A/B), Food Technology (90% A*/A) and Spanish.  97% pass rates in Maths and Geography.  94% pass rate in English and PE.

Individual superstars were Abi Hand: 9 at A* and  Bryn Turner: 7 at A* (including an elusive Grade 9 in Maths) with many other fantastic individual performances that exceeded grade expectations.

A stunning year with Ballard remaining at the forefront of non-selective schools and our best for 5 years

There has been much Press comment, as ever, about the GCSE results and the ‘league tables’. This year, 2017, the talk has been about the overall fall in ‘pass grades’ (A*-C and 9-1 in English and Maths). For the first time reformed GCSEs have been sat across all subjects although only English and Maths have been given the new, numbered, grading system. I am delighted to say that Ballard has ‘bucked the trend’ and this year we have seen a significant improvement in our results by 4% putting us at 89% for the so-called ‘gold standard’ of at least five passes at A*-C / grades 9-4 (including English and Maths).

Ballard is a relatively small school with around 60-65 pupils in our leaving class of Y11 each year (and there were 62 pupils in the 2017 cohort).  This means that it takes only a very few pupils not to achieve the ‘gold standard’ of 5 A* to C grades (9-4 in the new system) and the overall percentage falls.  Larger schools, such as the maintained ones, will have several hundred in their exam years and so even with quite a few pupils falling short the percentage overall may still hold up well.  This is one of the reasons I dislike league tables!  Another is that, sad to say, it is notoriously difficult to trust tables published by the Press in August each year.  They depend on schools honestly telling them their results (it’s only in about January that the final and official tables are published), they take no account of re-marks and appeals (in 2015 we submitted 75 EARs – enquiries about results – with 6% resulting in grade changes) and they may also not reflect the actual type of GCSE offered by the school.  In recent years some schools have been ‘experimenting’ with IGCSEs (which suffer from less government interference but can be harder) and all of these exams do not appear in official tables. (We do IGCSE English and IGCSE Business Studies.) Most of all I don’t like the tables because they cannot show how well individuals have done.  Many of our success stories lie not with those who have excelled in terms of As and A* grades (and many have) but with those who when they arrived here may have had a learning difficulty (or an emotional one) and have overcome the odds to secure several ‘passes’ and some close to a ‘pass’ (reckoned as a C grade or a grade 4 in Maths) – all above the odds. They also don’t show that this year seven of our departments have 100% pass rates and two had only one pupil with a single grade below a ‘C’.

And so what about this year’s results for Ballard? We have achieved our best results for 5 years (since the GCSE reforms began) and whilst there were the inevitable disappointments there were also stunning and delightfully unexpected triumphs! We have improved our percentages year on year where the ‘gold standard’ (inc. English and Maths are concerned) from 69% in 2013 to 85% in 2016 and now 89% in 2017. In the main we prefer to use a 4 year average for GCSE results as this takes a better account of the relative strengths of year groups which, as I have said, with a relatively small roll such as ours can vary considerably year on year. This will be published as soon as our results are all confirmed.

Our ‘gold standard’ pass rate of 89% puts us at the forefront of non-selective schools locally with most schools in our part of Hampshire / Dorset showing around 65-75% and Nationally 66%.

 

A summary of our statistics:

‘Gold standard’ of at least 5 passes at A*-C grades

Maths: only two of the 62 scored a grade 3

English Lang/Lit: only 4 scored below a C

English Language:

Subjects gaining 100% A*-B

Additional subjects achieving 100% A*-C

Subjects with only 1 pupil below C grade

89% (with a cohort of 61 pupils)

97% passed with grades 9-4

94% passed English

44% gained A*/A grades

Art, Dance, Drama, Exp Arts, Music, Food Tech

Spanish

French, PE, Geography, Statistics (taken by 54 Y10s)

There are no league tables for any Prep School.  Some independent schools will use SATs (we don’t and they are on the way out in many schools) but we have changed our internal assessments from CATs (cognitive ability tests) to something called Midyis which is run by Durham University for schools.  This, we believe, will give a much better individualised system of tests for pupils leading to GCSE predictors and evidence of ‘value added’.  We have a ‘traffic light system’ whereby we can flag up pupils doing well and on or above performance (green) through some concern (amber) and great concern (red).

Ballard, as a family-friendly holistic school, continues to do exceptionally well by its pupils. We are committed to academic rigour, wide opportunities and good manners. This ‘roundedness’, we believe, stands the test of time and creates fine citizens for the future.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster, Ballard School)  August 2017