Norfolk school among country's worst

Earlham High School in Norwich is today exposed as one of the worst in England because of a litany of dreadful exam results, poor basic skills and scores of children bunking off every day. Performance tables on

A Norfolk school is today exposed as one of the worst in England because of a litany of dreadful exam results, poor basic skills and scores of children bunking off every day.

Earlham High in Norwich is the fourth worst of 3,600 secondaries in the country after just 6pc of students left with the minimum requirement of five good GCSEs including English and maths.

The school, with a budget of £5m, is also 17th worst in England for truancy - with at least 55 children skipping lessons each day.

And it is ranked 20th from bottom for the amount it improves its students between ages 12 and 16.

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In June, one in seven 16-year-olds went into the world without any qualifications, while one in four failed to get to the basic level for English and maths.

The shocking figures show the depth of the challenge facing David Brunton, who will take over a school in special measures and reeling from a disastrous year.

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Mr Brunton will be the fourth headteacher in less than a year when he replaces acting head Geoff Best in April.

Despite the results from exams sat last June, Mr Best was hopeful about the future.

He said: “This is very disappointing, but we think the figures reflect the school as it was and not as it is now. I am confident the next figures will be much better.

“We have got a long way to go but the figures show we had a serious problem last year. It is still serious and difficult but, while we still have a long way to go, we are on that journey.”

Every day in 2006/7, 15.7pc of students were missing from classrooms with the consent of their parents, while 7.2pc were bunking off - meaning almost a quarter of the school was absent every day.

Mr Best said: “Attendance is now at 3-4pc higher than it was last year, though that is still not good enough. We are doing what we can at this school over the attendance problem but there are wider social issues. We are trying to persuade these youngsters and their parents that they should be at school.”

The results cast a shadow over Earlham High's future, with fears that the damage to its name is already irreparable, which could convince many parents to send their children to other schools.

If it continues to perform badly, the government has the power to step in and close it down.

A more likely outcome is that Earlham will become an academy, which would mean a new name and possibly a complete rebuild.

The obvious solution looks to be an academy in partnership with Earlham High's neighbour, UEA. But it is believed that UEA is not keen on the idea of such a partnership with a local school.

Near neighbour Costessey High is also on special measures.

Headteacher Philip May said the schools' futures should be considered together. “We need to look at a solution for the west of Norwich, rather than just a solution for Costessey or Earlham.”

Fred Corbett, deputy director of children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We are providing Earlham High School with extensive support, particularly in English and maths and have advanced skills teachers who are supporting the school to help improve standards.

“We are also helping Earlham to create links with other schools which can provide teachers and resources to assist the school. An executive group has been set up to help the school progress.

“We are confident with this additional support and the dedication of those working to support Earlham, attainment and standards will improve.”

He said Mr Best's interim leadership had provided the “right building blocks” for the future, and called on the community to support Mr Brunton's efforts, particularly in improving attendance.

t Are you a pupil, parent, teacher or governor of Earlham High School? What do you think has gone wrong, and is the situation really as bad as the league tables suggest? What can be done to improve things? Please contact reporter Jon Welch on 01603 772476 or

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