Birmingham issued its GCSE and A-level exam results yesterday but all is not as it appears, as Education Correspondent Shahid Naqvi reports...
Kings Norton High School's achievement in more than tripling the proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs this year was impressive.
Indeed, its success in going from 16 per cent of pupils gaining five or more good GCSEs to 50 per cent in a year was front page news in this paper. At the time, it was attributed to a "pioneering scheme" in which the once failing school had entered a federation with Kings Norton Girls, a city high-flyer headed by Pat Beanland.
City council official Nicky Kendall, who was appointed head teacher, said: "We are absolutely delighted with these results which are a credit to the hard work and dedication of all our staff and young people.
"We have been working on a rapid school improvement agenda and this is clearly making an impact with this phenomenal success."
Likewise, a similarly impressive increase at The College High in Erdington which saw the proportion of youngsters gaining the benchmark grow from 12 per cent to 34 per cent was also applauded.
The school's head Kim Popratnjak said: " The progress the school has made shows the dedication, hard work and commitment of our staff, students and parents."
There is no denying these schools have made great strides in terms of improving performance and motivation.
But their GCSE figures are not all down to a "rapid school improvement agenda" and "the dedication, hard work and commitment" of staff.
A scratch beneath the surface reveals there are other forces at work which are not so readily publicised.
Like, for example, removing more than a quarter of eligible pupils at Kings Norton High months before they were due to take their GCSEs.
A less drastic, but still high, number of pupils were taken off the roll at College High School between September last year and January this year, when audit of numbers were completed.
The majority of these pupils were referred on to " alternative provision" which, in most cases, meant local colleges.
The schools' insist their needs would have been better met there.
But how do we know? And how can we be assured that the schools in question were not simply off-loading pupils in order to boost their way up the attainment tables?
For whatever the pupils removed went on to achieve - if anything at all - it did not factor in the schools' results for this year.
According to Birmingham City Council, taking problem pupils off roll has nothing to do with the attainment of a school.
"You cannot link the two things together," said a spokesman for the education department. They do not correlate. You have to look at the pupils who sat the GCSEs and what results they get.
"All the ones who have been on alternative provision will get results as well but not necessarily GCSEs.
"They may get put a year behind or they may go on to vocational education at a different place be it a college or work place.
"It is about having qualifications that meet the needs of the pupils. It is about having provision that is going to keep them engaged."
There are other facts behind this year's GCSE attainment that should also be noted. For example, the increasing proportion of youngsters being put through vocational GNVQs which, the Government insists, are equal to GCSEs.
Of greatest concern is the fact that some schools are presenting their results as GCSE achievements where in fact, much of it is due to pupils taking GNVQs.
In Birmingham as a whole, nearly a fifth - 19 per cent - of all grades that went towards the city's overall improving GCSE performance were GNVQs.
Just over three-quarters were GCSEs and four per cent were vocational GCSEs.
Most exams at Kings Norton High were in GNVQs - 55 per cent. At Handsworth Wood Girls' School, another high-achieving school this year, 44 per cent of grades were GNVQs.
Other low- performing schools used the exam even more heavily. At Waverley School the figure was 71 per cent, at The International School and Community College it was 68 per cent and at Frankley Community High 67 per cent.