Britain’s most exclusive boarding schools including Eton and Harrow plummet to bottom of GCSE league table

Daily Mail, 29/01/15, Britain's most exclusive private schools have plummeted to the bottom of the performance league table after a change in the way GCSE scores are measured. HMC Chairman, Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School is quoted and HMC schools Eton, Harrow, Marlborough and Oundle are referenced.

Not a single pupil at £30,000 a year boarding schools Eton, Harrow and Marlborough attained the Government's benchmark of five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including maths and English.

They schools fell foul of the Department for Education's decision not to measure the 'international GCSE' taught at Eton and other fee-paying institutions.

But Eton and other famous public schools were not the only ones to be caught by the Government's overhaul of the exams system.

Overall, the number of schools considered to be under-performing has doubled, figures revealed this morning.

More than 300 schools fell beneath the Government's floor target this year after failing to ensure that enough pupils gained five good GCSE grades and made decent progress in the basics, according to an analysis of new league tables.

The Department for Education insisted that the rise is down to two key reforms - a decision that only a teenager's first attempt at a GCSE would count in the annual performance tables, and a move to strip poor quality vocational qualifications out of the rankings.

But the increase is likely to cause concerns among school leaders, who have voiced fears that schools will be considered failing not just due to changes in the system but also 'volatility' in last summer's GCSE results.

The new league tables, published today, are based on data provided by the DfE and show how every school and college in England performed at GCSE, A-level and other academic and vocational qualifications in 2014.

They also indicate that dozens of secondaries, the majority of them private schools, have seen their results plummet to zero because some combinations of English GCSEs and some IGCSEs do not count in the rankings this year.

The IGCSE - or international GCSE - is sat by candidates overseas, but has long been favoured by many private schools and some leading state schools as a more rigorous assessment.

They were once heavily promoted by the coalition government as a way of increasing rigour in the exams system, but now it wants pupils to take the new 'more ambitious' GCSEs currently being phased into schools.

Many leading schools - such as Cheltenham Ladies' College, Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Oundle and Marlborough - are now reported as having 0 per cent of pupils attaining the government's benchmark of five GCSEs at grades A*-C including maths and English.

Richard Harman, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), which represents many leading independent schools, said the decision to drop IGCSEs made a 'nonsense' of the tables.

'Several of the UK's most highly performing independent schools and others offering this excellent qualification will now appear to be bottom of the class in the government's rankings,' he said.

'This obviously absurd situation creates further confusion for parents as they cannot compare schools' performance accurately and transparently.

'Many HMC schools will continue to offer the IGCSE, as experience tells us it is rigorous and offers a good basis for sixth-form study.'

State secondaries are considered to be below the Government's floor target if fewer than 40 per cent of their pupils gain at least five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths, and students are not making good enough progress in these two core subjects.

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