TWO secondary schools in Ellesmere Port are among the worst performing in the country, according to a controversial new government grading system.

Ellesmere Port Catholic High School and University of Chester CE Academy (UCEA) were both rated 'well below average' for students' progress and GCSE results.

The 2017 secondary school league tables feature the results of the first pupils to sit new, tougher GCSEs in English and maths.

Nationally, a total of 365 schools, or 12 per cent, were below the new floor standard. In 2016 it was 282 schools or 9.3 per cent.

The tables are meant to allow parents and pupils to compare local schools' results, but critics say they reveal little about a school's true quality.

In Cheshire West and Chester, a total of six schools were 'well below average', with the list also including Oaklands School and Hebden Green Community School in Winsford, and Cloughwood Academy, Northwich, all of which are special schools.

Archers Brook SEMH Residential School in Ellesmere Port also made the list, although it is a residential special school for youngsters with educational, social or behavioural difficulties. In a report published this month it was rated 'outstanding' by education watchdog Ofsted.

Across the borough, three schools were deemed 'below average' – Upton-By-Chester High School and Queen's Park High School in Chester, and The Winsford Academy.

In a statement, Cllr Nicole Meardon, cabinet member for children and families, told The Standard the council would work closely with underperforming schools.

She said: “All secondary schools have had to rise to the challenge of teaching the new GCSE specifications for English and mathematics and the significant changes to the methodology being used to hold schools to account.

“We are aware that two secondary schools within Cheshire West and Chester did not meet the Floor Standard in 2017 and we are working with them to secure improvements and progress in the future.”

A spokesman for University of Chester Academies Trust (UCAT), which operates outside of council control, added: “We are understandably disappointed with UCEA’s position, which relates to last year’s GCSE data. Unfortunately, it does not reflect the considerable ongoing efforts by staff to help raise standards.

“UCEA staff are part of a wider team, with support from UCAT and alliances with other outstanding schools which demonstrate best practice. Much has already been achieved, but effecting more significant change will be a steady process, to achieve sustainable results in the longer term.”

In their most recent Ofsted reports, Ellesmere Port Catholic High was graded 'Good' in 2015 while UCEA was rated 'inadequate' in April last year.

The new league tables draw on GCSE results from 2017 as well as a raft of data from the Department for Education (DfE) to evaluate how well pupils progress in a school.

Called 'Progress 8' and 'Attainment 8', they focus on the results of a pupil's best eight GCSE results including English and maths.

Last summer, teenagers sat new, harder GCSEs in English and maths, which were graded 9 to 1 (9 being the top grade). All other GCSEs are graded under the old-style alphabetical system.

Pupils are considered to have passed the new exams if they achieved a grade 4 or above , which is equivalent to the old C, but schools are judged on a grade 5.

This means schools and individual pupils are effectively judged by different standards, which critics say is unfair, confusing and misleading.

The DfE has stressed there is no automatic consequence to being below the floor standard.

It said: "Where a school has fallen below these standards for the first time in 2017, the data will be a starting point for a conversation about school improvement."