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BRENTWOOD: School embroiled in exam controversy

By This is Essex  |  Posted: August 05, 2009

  • DEFENDED: Ian Davies

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A TOTAL of 15 out of 37 pupils who paid thousands to take a new qualification at a private school are still waiting to see if they can get into university.

Head teacher of Brentwood School, Ian Davies, has staunchly defended his staff and school after just 22 pupils taking the International Baccalaureate (IB) – a broader, worldwide alternative qualification to A-levels – have so far achieved a university place.

"I think the overall project was positive and I'm confident that there was not a lot of wrong with the programme," he said.

Mr Davies took time out from his holiday to speak to the Gazette after an article in the Daily Telegraph suggested pupils – who paid up to £22,000 to board at the school and £12,000 to attend during the day– were not taught correctly.

He claimed pupils who have fallen short of getting the grades needed for university are currently getting support from the school to try and obtain a place and those that still fail to do so will be given free tutoring and help in re-sitting exams in November.

He also said the accusation that he was at Wimbledon when the results were released on July 5 were an "unpleasant dig" and though it was true, he spent the entire next week in meetings attempting to help disappointed pupils.

"I think we can say we share the disappointment of the children who did not get the grades they expected, and we expected them to get," he said.

"It happens every exam time that there are those that are disappointed.

"We have tried to do the best for our pupils by introducing a broad and balanced course – it's just such a shame some of them are disappointed at the end of the day.

"We can help them do better next time and that's what we have been talking to them and their parents about."

He added there may have been some teething problems in teaching a fledgling course, but said one of the issues may have been inaccurate grade predictions before the exams were taken.

"But we like to be optimistic with our grades predictions because the other extreme would be to under-predict, which limits their opportunities," Mr Davies added.

"I think the first year you teach any course, there are bound to be difficulties, particularly with the timing of it."

Florian Cooper, 18, who obtained a place at Durham University to study music after taking the IB at the Ingrave Road school this year, said he was satisfied with the teaching he received.

"I feel the teaching was very good and we had excellent support.

"A couple of my best friends didn't get their grades and obviously they are really upset, bit it's down to quite a few factors and not just the school."

NONE of the 37 students who sat the IB examinations this summer scored less than 25 out of 45 points available.

Of those who scored 25 to 28 points (seven students), all met the necessary criteria to be awarded the IB Diploma, meaning all 37 students were awarded the diploma.

50.4 per cent of grades at Higher Level were at Grade 6 and 7, the highest grades that pupils can achieve in the IB.

The overall average for the school was 32.5 points, which Brentwood School believes to be 2.5 points above the world average.

However, the school admits it would have liked a 34 point average in the first year.

FOUNDED in 1968 and developed by teachers at the International School Of Geneva, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is offered to students world-wide.

More than 745,000 students in 2,174 schools in 138 countries study on the IB system.

The IB provides three stages of education, each labelled as a 'programme'. These are available for students aged between three and 19.

North Manchester High School for Girls in the UK was one of the first schools to examine students under the IB Diploma Programme.

Funding is sourced from annual fees, donations and governmental initiatives.

The IB headquarters is located in Geneva, Switzerland.

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    C Allen, Brentwood  |  August 11 2009, 11:38AM

    I am shocked that Brentwood School¿s name is getting tarnished because of these IB results, as every pupil that took the IB at Brentwood School passed and have gained the diploma! As the above article highlights the overall average of points was 32.5, which is 2.5 points higher than the world average and .5 points higher than the Anglo European School¿s IB results this year - and they have been offering the IB for 30 years! It is wrong that just because a few pupils didn¿t get their chosen university places that the entire school should suffer. This year alone 7 pupils were offered places at Oxford and Cambridge Universities ¿ that is more places than any other local school, including the Grammar schools. At exam time there are always pupils that don¿t get the results they¿re expecting and its easy to blame the school for pupils poor results. Perhaps it is time for pupils to take some responsibility!

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    Bernie Anderson, Brentwood  |  August 10 2009, 1:36PM

    Alan, Shenfield, I certainly agree that today's comprehensives are atrocious dung heaps, no question about that. Brentwood school is NOT the school it once was. At the end of the day, Davies, as the 'big cheese' running the show MUSt take responsibility, after all, he would have been smug had all 37 passed and gone to university. When it all goes wrong, as it did here, the headmaster has take the can. Sounds like it's time for DAvies to quit and make way for fresh blood. I don't give a toss about any school, private or state, but I do believe it's unfair that public schools, like Brentwood, school, escape paying corporation tax. What other business enjoys this right ? Only charities and private schools are multi-million pound bunsinesses NOT charities. Make them pay their taxes like the rest of us !

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    Alan, Shenfield  |  August 10 2009, 7:55AM

    Whilst agrreing with much of what A Peters has said I understand that the Universities have to take some of the blame for this as they dont seem to be quite clued up on the new system either. To those who may be experiencing some kind of Schadenfreude Its too easy, isnt it ? in this age of envy to gloat at the slightest hiccup in the Private education system when most people realise that the standards are way, way above those of Comprehensives. I never had the benefit of attending a private school. However I dont begrudge others. I believe that rounding everything down to the lowest common denominator is not the way to go.

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    A Peters, Hutton  |  August 07 2009, 9:45AM

    We should not be surprised at this latest catastrophe to hit Brentwood school. The school has been in terminal decline for some time. The buck has to stop with the person at the top - Ian Davies. He must take full responsibility for this exam debacle and resign. I daresay the time has come for a new headteacher and senior management team as a whole. You have to feel sorry for the parents who paid thousands of pounds for their children to take the IB diploma; only to see them not get the grades they needed for university entrance because of poor, inadequate, below par teaching. There is now no difference between Brentwood school and the local comps. Brentwood School - the comp where you have to pay !