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Larkmead School is a coeducational secondary school and sixth form situated on Faringdon Road, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. It is one in a three-way partnership of Abingdon schools known as 14:19 Abingdon. The other members are John Mason School, Fitzharrys School and formerly Abingdon and Witney College. The three partners share Sixth Form lessons and plans for the future are discussed between the head teachers of all three schools.
At the close of the war in 1945, and the introduction of primary and secondary education under R.A. Butler's Education Act 1944, Abingdon borough decided that a larger school was desperately needed. The names Larkhill and Willowside were originally suggested for the school, but in the end the name 'Larkmead' was settled upon.
The new school's buildings were completed by Easter 1956, and on Friday 8 June the school was officially opened by Sir John Douglas Cockcroft. Several additions were made to the school over the coming years, including a Kitchen (1958), a Caretaker's bungalow and Swimming Pool (1960) and a new Design Technology building (1969).
In 1972, with the school preparing for comprehensive status, it was deemed necessary to update and extend the school's buildings. A new collection of buildings were built away from the main teaching areas to house the administrative centre of the school, where the Office and Learning Resource Centre are situated today.
Up to the present day the school has made several new additions to its buildings, including a much needed Music Centre - including a performance room and several practice and technology rooms - and there are several initiatives ongoing to improve the facilities at the school.
The School achieved the status of a Specialist School in the Visual and Performing Arts after much hard work from retired headteacher Richard Bysouth and the enthusiasm of Pupils and Parents who helped reach the required figure of £150,000 to complete the application. The merits of becoming a specialist school are widely disputed, with a recent paper suggesting that it made very little difference to exam results even in those subjects the school specialised in, and it is debatable whether the status has been good for Larkmead School.
The performance of a school can be judged by many criteria, including Ofsted Reports and Examination Performance.
Larkmead School was last inspected by OFSTED in May 2008, and overall it received a Level 4 (broadly average to above average) for 'Overall Effectiveness'. Its Key Stage 3 performance was highly praised, with particular emphasis on the progress made from 'below average performance' before joining the School, to 'average performance' at the end of Key Stage 3.
However, Key Stage 4 performance was widely condemned in the report with GCSE performance described as ' average overall' although the school was praised for actively working towards improving these grades.
Overall, aspects of the school that were praised included the behaviour of students, strong leadership from both the Headteacher and the Board of Governors and the provision of extra-curricular activities in line with the school's specialist status. Aspects of the school that were highlighted for improvement included the improvement of lessons to reflect individual learners, and also the school's poor attendance figures.
The school was not singled out to receive either special measures or a notice to improve. Following an OFSTED inspection in 2013, Larkmead was marked as "requires improvement". Head master Chris Harris has claimed that this is due to "controversial changes to English GCSE grade boundaries".
Public Examination Results
In 2007, Larkmead students achieved 323.9 as an average total points score, compared to the Oxfordshire average of 367.9 and the National average of 378.2. According to the school, their GCSE results 'exactly met our predicted results'.
In the 2007 GCSE Results, '0.1% of Larkmead students achieved 10 Grade A*/A's' (sic) which was a higher percentage than any of the other schools in the Abingdon consortium.
Key Stage 3 Results
Larkmead's Key Stage 3 results were their best achievement in the year 2007, with 90% of students either meeting or exceeding their predicted grades. In the Key Stage 3 English examinations the school exceeded the county average by 9%. The school is in the top 5% of schools nationwide in terms of value added performance at Key Stage 3.
Advanced Level Results
Larkmead's performance at Key Stage 5 is complicated by the fact that students from across the Abingdon consortium attend lessons and are examined at this institution. 47% of students entered at Larkmead were passed at a grade A or B, and 98% of all exams entered were pass grades, compared to the national average of 96%. At AS, 81% of students gaining a pass grade in each subject.
-  Taylor, J, "The Impact of the Specialist Schools Programme on Secondary School Exam Results in England" (September 2005)
-  Larkmead School: "Exam Results" (2007, internal publication) Archived March 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.