THE annual GCSE performance tables released this week show mixed fortunes for local secondary schools.

The Chase fared well, with 69 per cent of its 271 eligible pupils achieving five or more grades A* to C in 2003. This is a 12 per cent rise on last year.

Chase head Kevin Peck said he was very pleased with the Geraldine Road school's performance.

"It's a great tribute to the hard work of the staff and students over the past four years," he said.

Mr Peck said new ways of identifying struggling students and focusing extra attention on them had helped boost exam scores.

A mentoring scheme with graduates at QinetiQ and a day dedicated to looking at revision and planning techniques also helped students, said Mr Peck.

"We certainly hope to have similar results next year," he said.

At St James's School, scores dipped considerably on previous years. Since 2000, the percentage of pupils gaining five or more A* to C grades was 83, 81 and 73, but in 2003 that figure dropped to 44 per cent.

Head Rosalind Hayes said in fact 80 per cent of GCSE students got five or more A* to Cs. However, only pupils who are 15 at the start of the school year are counted on the tables, so just nine sets of results were taken into account. Many of the school's students are from overseas and would not be of an eligible age when they sat the exams.

"What it really indicates is the absurdity of the league tables," she said. "It's just a nonsense. They ought to count the students in the whole school that are in year 11 taking GCSEs."

Jane Potter, at Malvern Girls' College, agreed. While the tables indicated a 14 per cent drop in those achieving the benchmark, she said the number of students taking exams who did achieve the standard was 99 per cent. However, many of them varied in age.

Julien Kramer, head of educational services at Worcestershire County Council, said: "Our results have gone up for the last five years and are above average. This is a plateau and could well relate to the dismal funding position we continually find ourselves in.

"What clumsy league tables don't demonstrate is how well our schools do in adding value to a child's life. We have schools that do an outstandingly good job and we can expect even better results in the future."