HEADLANDS: Politicians and education bosses alike have reacted with a mixture of shock and horror following the revelation that Headlands is the worst performing school in the country.

Headlands pipped New Brompton College in Gillingham, Kent, to the title of worst school after only nine per cent of its 148 pupils achieved at least five A* to C grades at GCSE or equivalent level, while it also finished third bottom of the average points score per pupil rankings.

The Cricklade Road school even has the unenviable record of having the worst value added score in England, behind Preston's Tulketh Community Sports College statistics which stunned Coun David Glaholm "I don't believe it because I know Jan Shadick and her management team have been doing an excellent job over the last few months," said Coun Glaholm (Lab, Penhill).

"The GCSE results relate to kids who were in education when the school was failing.

"But now, with the new management team in place and the support from the council and the Government, the school is turning around.

"At the end of the day, the important thing is we give the children the best possible opportunity for education and they can possibly get."

Fellow Penhill councillor, Andy Harrison was similarly shocked to hear of Headlands' league position, but was keen to highlight his sympathy for the pupils he claimed had been failed by the school.

"Obviously it is very, very disappointing," he said. "The headteacher has only been in there for about 18 months and, as a result, there are a lot of children who have lost out on their education opportunity."

Garry Perkins (Con, Shaw & Nine Elms), Swindon Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: "It is disappointing, but it was expected.

"The new head joined last year and it is a two-year course. She is anticipating a huge improvement this year.

"I know the results of the fourth form (Year 10) have significantly improved and I confidently predict there will be an improvement in GCSE results this year.

"Everything is more stable, the staff, the curriculum, the management and the attitude of the students has improved dramatically.

"I've never been a fan of league tables. Headlands has gone through a testing period over the last few years, but things are improving."

Phil Baker, the branch secretary of teaching union ATL and a former teacher at Headlands, said: "It is clearly a major disappointment that a school, which was up at 19 per cent 5A*s to C three years ago is at this level, despite all the hard work by teachers under very difficult circumstances.

"There will be a time for reflection on whether the steps taken over the last three years were necessarily the best steps in the interests of the children because we are always told children only have one chance.

"But I welcome the fact that they have a headteacher that seems to be driving the school forward.

"Clearly it is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue and it is a time for the school to be supported rather than not.

"I hope that the current debate over academy status does not deflect the school from its efforts to improve."