Mid Ulster schools suffer as GCSE pass rate drops

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There has been a sharp drop in the number of pupils achieving at least 5 GCSEs at local schools.

The big fall in educational performances occurred at non-grammar schools in the Southern region, with Holy Trinity College posting the biggest drop over the past four years,according to the latest figures released by the Department of Education.

In 2010/11, just 9.4 percent of the Cookstown school’s pupils failed to reach the benchmark of 5 GCSEs. By 2013/14, this figure had risen to 25%.

However, even with the increase, Holy Trinity College was still one of the best performing non-grammar schools in the Southern Region.

Other schools in the Mid Ulster region experiencing a decline in educational attainment include Drumglass High School, Dungannon, where the number of failing pupils rose from 31.9% to 45.8% over the past 4 years, Fivemiletown High School, where the figure rose from 22% to 30.7%, Cookstown High School, whose failure rate rose from 34.5% to 39.1%, and Aughnacloy, 28.6% to 32.4%.

Catholic maintained non-grammars did considerably better than the state-controlled sector, with St Patrick’s College, Dungannon posting the greatest improvement with a decrease in the failure rate from 50% to 39.1%.

St Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley was the second best performing non-grammar school in the Southern Region, with only 23.4% of pupils failing to achieve 5 GCSEs.

Integrated College Dungannon also showed an improvement with the failure rate declining from 45.5% to 37.3%.

St Joseph’s College, Coalisland had one of the worst failure rates in the Southern Area at 85.7%, however, this was an improvement on the 2011 rate, which was 89.1%.

The three grammar schools in the area all showed an improvement or no change in GCSE performance.

St Joseph’s Grammar, Donaghmore had the best results, with no pupils failing to get at least 5 GCSEs, while St Patrick’s Academy and the Royal School, Dungannon had less than five pupils failing to achieve the benchmark.

The volatility in results has been blamed on the ongoing transfer test debacle.

In addition, some of the figures can be affected by the challenges particular schools face such as the relative poverty of pupils and the percentage of children with special educational needs, who often tend to get lower exam results.

A school which ranks relatively low for GCSE performance might face far greater challenges than a high-performing school in a better-off area. Education Minister John O’Dowd said:”Caution should be exercised when interpreting School Leavers Data at individual school level to avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions.”