A BLACKBURN high school was today celebrating becoming one of the country's most improved schools for GCSE results.

And Witton Park High School Business and Enterprise College said it had been told by the Department for Education and Skills it had one of the top two performance rates in the country.

The school has improved the percentage of students getting five A* to C grades from 32 to 59 in four years.

Headteacher of 20 years John Gosling put success at the Buncer Lane site down to stable management and an unfaltering eye on student achievement.

The news comes as this year's local education authority GCSE performance rates for 15-year-olds were published by the Office for National Statistics.

Mr Gosling said: "We are delighted our results have improved and that has received national recognition. It was a shame we had a dip in 2003 but the academic group was strong last year and will be again.

"The secret has been stable management and leadership for more than 20 years. Our focus has always been on attainment and not letting anything else get in our way. We've simply never taken our eye off the ball."

Deputy head Gwen Onyon took the surprise call from the DfES Excellence in Cities representative and said she was told the school was in the top two in the country.

She said: "This improvement is very much a team effort and to gain excellent examination results is something we have been working towards for a number of years.

"We have consistently maintained a differentiated approach to the curriculum for all our students and we include all our children as a true comprehensive school."

Of the school's 1,060 pupils, 24 per cent have some kind of special educational needs. In February the school was designated as a specialist college, tapping in to an annual grant of £126,000 for four years to promote new programmes of study.

It is also heavily involved in the Excellence in Cities initiative. Pupils were selected for this summer's National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth. The Year 7, 9 and 10 pupils proved themselves to be in the top five per cent nationally and went to the Student Academy to be pushed to their full potential.

The school also came in the top two per cent nationally for academic improvement in 2002 based on performance between ages 11 to 16 and was named as a High Value School by the Department for Education and Skills.

Staff have built a reputation for pioneering initiatives including launching business mentors with Blackburn's Capita, sending parents home with computers to boost pupil learning and introducing courses on sign language.

A spokesperson for the DfES said: "Witton Park has shown particular success at turning around pupil performance."

Coun Dave Hollings, executive member for education and lifelong learning, said: "We are extremely proud of the school for such an outstanding achievement."