Lib Dem minister proposes points system to end league table ‘gaming’

Ministers are considering new league table measures that would assign points to each grade a pupil achieves at GCSE in a bid to stop schools “gaming” the system by focusing on the five A* to C benchmark.

Schools minister David Laws said this week that he was looking at the measure among a range of options to overhaul the ways school standards were held to account.

The proposals come as Mr Laws dismissed concerns held by employers, teachers and even the head of exams regulator Ofqual around the new English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs). He claimed that many of the fears around the new exam were misinformed.

Speaking to TES, the Liberal Democrat said the Department for Education was aware of the need for a more accurate accountability framework and was considering a measure that would assign a point score to each grade in an attempt to counteract the focus on the C/D borderline.

Earlier this year, Graham Stuart, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, raised the issue of “perverse incentives” created by the government’s focusing too heavily on the proportion of pupils gaining five A* to C grades, including English and maths.

The DfE is in the middle of drafting a consultation paper on secondary school accountability, which is expected to be launched imminently. The move comes alongside plans to replace English, maths and science GCSE with the new EBCs.

Various groups from the CBI and independent school leaders to heads’ and classroom unions have voiced concerns about how the proposed qualifications will be designed.

A consultation on EBCs closed this week and Mr Laws pledged to review every submission, but he dismissed many fears for being based on outdated information.

“Of course if you introduce the scale of change that we’re talking about there are going to be lots of people with strong views,” Mr Laws said. “Some of those views I have found as I have gone round the country are based around issues that we have already resolved.

“There are a lot of people who have a vision based upon ideas trailed around in the media months ago, which is not what we’re proposing. When we sit down and explain to people what we are proposing they are much more positive about it.”

The remark drew criticism from the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) group of elite independent schools, which has “grave reservations” about the qualification.

“HMC schools welcome greater rigour, and we are very pleased that proposals are for an inclusive award that all young people will sit,” William Richardson, HMC general secretary, said. “But we hope the consultation will give the department an absolutely clear sense that there are fundamental technical and structural problems that need to be resolved before EBCs have a likelihood of succeeding.”

By Richard Vaughan, TES. Click here to read the article © The TES