Norfolk’s great GCSE divide

The gulf between the haves and the have-nots is today exposed, as figures show a yawning GCSE achievement gap between different - and sometimes neighbouring - areas of Norfolk.

Despite the public perception of relative prosperity in the county, there are places where well over half of all 16-year-olds leave school without the 'gold standard' of five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths.

In King's Lynn and West Norfolk, barely four out of 10 (41.5pc) hit the target in 2010, while Norwich fared little better, with 44.2pc making the grade.

But just a few miles down the road the picture is far brighter.

In Broadland, 63.7pc got five good GCSEs including English and maths, and in South Norfolk, the figure was 63.5pc.

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The gold standard is increasingly the minimum requirement for teenagers to go on to further education, and is seen as the measure of success at the end of 12 years of compulsory schooling.

The achievement gap - revealed among an unprecedented number of GCSE attainment tables published yesterday by the Department for Education (DfE) - shows how an accident of birth or a change of location can affect a child's prospects.

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Fred Corbett, deputy director of children's services at Norfolk County Council, said education chiefs were 'well aware' of the disparity, which was clear at even more local levels than district council areas.

He said there was a 'clear link' between social deprivation and poor educational performance.

He said: 'We have certainly known about this issue for some time. That's why, in the most socially deprived places, we've gone for academy developments to provide new school buildings and drive up results.'

The 'first wave' academies, which were designed to be in more challenging areas, are in King's Lynn, Thetford, Gorleston, Costessey and two on the edge of estates in Norwich.

Mr Corbett said: 'There is an inter-relation between educational standards, overall economic wellbeing - how well the local economy is doing - and social deprivation factors.

'If you did a map of districts in terms of levels of social deprivation you would find a similar pattern to the educational results.

'If you did the same with income per head and health factors, you would get the same inequalities. We do know that social deprivation is a particularly strong indicator of potentially poor educational performance.'

He added that there were 'huge differences' within the larger areas - citing the different educational performance recorded in Dereham and Thetford, which are both in Breckland.

Mr Corbett said: 'We look in greatest detail at the more deprived areas in terms of providing advisor support to schools and support to governors in terms of recruitment and retention.

'We link schools that are working well with schools where results are lower. And we do that both inside and outside the county.'

He said he hoped that the relatively recent introduction of a network of children's centres for under-fives - initially developed in more deprived areas - would reap rewards in a few years, when the children worked they way through to high school.

The district-by-district figures were among the data published by the government, which wants parents to have access to as much information as possible about high schools.

For the first time, parents can see how many children from every secondary school in England were entered for each individual GCSE subject.

Many schools are turning their backs on traditional subjects such as history and geography, new figures suggest.

An analysis of newly-published Government data reveals that 137 state secondary schools in England entered no pupil for a GCSE in geography last year.

They also show how each school fared in the English Baccalaureate in 2010.

The EBacc is achieved when pupils gain at least a C in English, maths, double science, a modern foreign language and either history or geography.

Headteachers complained that there was no warning about the measures, and fear it could widen the gap in the public's perception between academic and vocational learning.

The figures confirm that in Norfolk, 21 schools saw 10pc or less of their students gain the EBacc last year.

The government has been attempting to boost the numbers of pupils taking traditional academic subjects, which it said were essential for a well-rounded education.

But the figures show that at 70 schools in England, no students were offered the chance to study history at GCSE. And more than 23,500 students were sitting exams at schools which did not offer geography.

? To access all of the figures, go to and see the online story about the region's GCSE performance divide.

? To read Steve Downes's education blog, visit

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