School Pride; SCHOOLCHILDREN MEET THE CHALLENGE TO BECOME TOP OF THE CLASS

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Byline: NICOLA JUNCAR

THEIR school motto is "pride and performance" and this year the pupils certainly lived up to it.

In 2008, Benfield School in Newcastle was listed in the Government's National Challenge programme, because less than 30% of pupils were achieving five or more A* to C grades, including English and maths.

But what a difference a year makes.

The 2009 GCSE results saw the school's pass rate, including the two core subjects, increase by 12%, to 40%.

Its pass rate for five or more A* to C grades across all subjects was also its best ever, as it rose 10% to 74%, which is a staggering 38% increase from 2005.

Before the school, in Walkergate, broke up for the Christmas holiday, it held a celebration evening to mark its success and to recognise some outstanding individuals.

One of the star students of 2009 was Jordan Bayley, who achieved seven A*s and four As in her GCSEs. She's now studying A-levels in maths, physics, English literature and history at Benfield's sixth form.

The school's assistant headteacher, Jennie Magee, said: "By studying a wide variety of subjects, she is hoping to keep her options open.

"Jordan is keen to study history at university and possibly go on to do a law conversion, but she also has an interest in quantum physics."

Another student with an impressive GCSE performance was James Hunter, who achieved five A*s and six As and is now studying geography, history, maths and English language at A-level. And Samantha Spowart achieved 13 As and is studying A-levels in philosophy and ethics, English literature, maths and history. She hopes to study psychology at university and follow a career in social work.

In addition, Grace Imeson achieved 13 A* to C grades, including one in PE which she sat a year early, despite having to juggle her studies with gymnastics. …