by political editor Paul Francis
It has been another record-breaking year for Kent’s secondary schools - with students posting some of the best GCSE results recorded.
School league tables published today show another year of improving standards, with increases in exam passes being seen at a large number of Kent’s secondaries.
But amid the good news, there were some disappointments with the government tables showing a mixed picture for results in some subjects and persistent absence rates in Kent remaining stubbornly high compared to the national average.
Nearly six out of 10 pupils passed five or more good GCSEs, with the number getting GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and maths rising to 56.8 per cent - nearly five per cent up on 2009 and above the national average of 55.2 per cent.
The percentage of pupils achieving five or more passes at grades A* to C in all subjects rose to nearly 80 per cent, compared to a national average of 76 per cent.
Just seven schools failed to pass the threshold set by the previous government for 30 per cent of pupils to achieve five or more good GCSEs.
Education secretary Michael Gove has set a new benchmark of 35 per cent for schools.
The poorest performing school was the Marlowe Academy, which in 2005 was the first in Kent to become an academy.
For the first time, the tables record the number of pupils who have achieved passes across a broad range of subjects - the so-called English Baccalaureate. This shows the percentage of pupils who pass at least five of the exams at grade C or above, including English, maths, one science, one foreign language and one humanity.
There was a mixed picture based on this indicator, with 30 Kent schools having no pupils reaching the target and a further 30 having less than ten per cent. The introduction of this measure has angered some heads as it has been introduced at a late stage.
While Kent’s 33 grammar schools came out top in terms of exam passes, it was non-selective schools that were best at boosting performance based on their added value score. Based on this measure, which takes into account deprivation factors and progress between years, Kent’s best school was Canterbury High School, followed by Maidstone’s Valley Park School and The Westlands School in Sittingbourne.
Meanwhile, less than one in three of all students took and passed a language GCSE although at 30 per cent, Kent was marginally higher than the national average of 28 per cent.
At nearly 40 schools, fewer than 10 per cent of pupils passed a GCSE language - and at one, The Wildernesse in Sevenoaks, no pupils secured a pass at A* to C.
One in 10 pupils was not in class when they should have been at five Kent schools, according to the tables.
The school with the worst persistent absenteeism rate was the Sheppey Academy, where nearly 20 per cent of pupils were regularly absent.
The next worse was the Skinners Academy in Tunbridge Wells, where nearly 12 per cent of pupils were regularly away, followed by Ramsgate’s Ellington School at 10.6 per cent, then Hartsdown Technology College at 9.7 per cent and Whitstable Community College at 9.5 per cent.
But there was better news for the school dubbed the worst in the country last year for truancy.
New Line Learning, the Maidstone academy, saw its persistent absenteeism rate plummet from 26.7 per cent in 2009 to 8.7 per cent - a drop of nearly 70 per cent.
Across Kent, the average rate of persistent absences was 5.1 per cent compared to 4.6 per cent nationally.