South East Wales

GCSEs: 'Worst' exam school Eastern High in Rumney improves

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Media captionArmando Di-Finizi, head of Eastern High in Rumney, Cardiff, which had the worst GCSE results in Wales last year, says it has made improvements

A Cardiff secondary school which previously had the worst GCSE results in Wales has seen its best performance in possibly a decade.

Eastern High was created in 2014 out of Rumney High School and the closure of Llanrumney High School, which was in special measures.

It is one of 40 under-performing schools which are part of a £20m support programme.

Official results for Schools Challenge Cymru schools will be out this autumn.

Three months ago, new Eastern High head Armando Di-Finizio asked parents to take a "leap of faith", saying he had "absolute belief" the support programme could turn the school around.

He came in after watchdog Estyn gave the school one of its worst ever inspection reports.

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Last year, only 14.9% of pupils got five A* to C grades, which included English and maths - and it was easily bottom of a table of Schools Challenge Cymru schools, 9% below the next one. The Wales school average is 57.9%.

"We've more than doubled them and if you look at the two predecessor schools and combine the results, it's probably the highest the school's had for the last 10 years," said Mr Di-Finizio.

"So we're happy, we've achieved what we wanted to achieve but it's a start and we're on a journey."

The school is still in special measures, but has reduced exclusion figures and improved attendance.

Image caption Armando Di-Finizio took over at Eastern High in 2014

In 2015, 27 of the Schools Challenge Cymru schools saw an increase in the number of pupils achieving five A*-C grades at GCSE.

But Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has been sceptical about whether the programme is working effectively and if it is the best way to bring about improvements.

"What's important is we look at evidence, we look to see at how those individual schools have done over the coming weeks and we'll also be interested in the pupil deprivation grant - which targets resources at our more underprivileged children - and see how those children have done," Ms Williams told BBC Wales.

"We'll want to look more carefully at how individual programmes are actually impacting on results. If they're working, we will look to continue and build on those programmes.

"If we can't see a return on that investment, we'll see how best to support educational attainment going forward."

Eastern High believes support from Schools Challenge Cymru has allowed it to focus support on individual pupils who were coming in at a lower level.

Mr Di-Finizio said: "I don't think we'd be where we are without Challenge Cymru this year. It would have been a longer journey.

"The funding and support when we need it has been great - it has had a real impact on our school."

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