Dozens of private schools branded failures in controversial new league tables

The Telegraph, 29/01/15, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference says that without the inclusion of IGCSEs official rankings are “absurd”, as many top performing independent schools drop to the bottom of the tables. HMC Chairman Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School is quoted.

Dozens of the country’s independent schools have been condemned to the bottom of GCSE league tables on a technicality.

According to official rankings, no pupils at schools such as Eton College, City of London, Marlborough, Harrow and Westminster met an official benchmark of five A* to C grades, including English and maths.

Many leading independent schools have been left at the foot of the tables because large numbers shun conventional GCSEs in subjects such as English, maths and science in favour alternative International GCSEs (IGCSEs).

The IGCSE had been favoured by independent schools because it featured less coursework and more emphasis on exams sat at the end of two years. However some teachers and academics claim that the move towards the international test may also be driven by the view that it is easier for pupils to pass.

Although some IGCSEs are included in the tables, many are not recognised, meaning schools that took those qualifications last summer will perform poorly in the key measure of the proportion of pupils gaining at least five C grades, including English and maths.

Last year ministers announced that from 2017 IGCSEs will be excluded from the rankings altogether. The announcement came despite the Government being accused of creating “nonsense” rankings, after many top independent schools were left at the bottom of the tables.

However now the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference has said its members are “happy” to be left at the bottom of the rankings because without the inclusion of IGCSEs the tables are “absurd”.

Speaking shortly before the publication of the results, Richard Harman, chairman of the HMC and headmaster of Uppingham School in Rutland, Leics, said: “The decision to drop IGCSEs from the league tables over the next two years means those tables have become a nonsense. 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.

“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. We know what works for our pupils and will always continue to provide a range of the best and most suitable courses, regardless of the vagaries of political decision making.”

The league tables released on Thursday morning also showed that the number of failing schools has doubled in the past year as a result of the Government's overhaul of the exams system.

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