Headteachers hit out at ‘nonsense’ school league tables

29 January 2015
Posted by Heidi Salmons
Secondary school headteachers across England have dismissed government league tables published on Thursday as a “nonsense”, as a result of the coalition’s radical overhauls to the exam system and the types of qualification included in the list.

The Financial Times, 29/01/15, secondary school headteachers across England have dismissed government league tables published on Thursday as a “nonsense”, as a result of the coalition’s radical overhauls to the exam system and the types of qualification included in the list. HMC Chairman Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School is quoted.

In particular, private schools whose pupils take international GCSE exams fared very badly in the latest data, since ministers announced last summer that these would be excluded from the tables.

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At Eton, Harrow and Wycombe Abbey, three of the country’s most famous private schools, only 35 per cent, 19 per cent and 13 per cent of pupils respectively achieved at least five GCSEs at A*-C grade or equivalent, according to the Department for Education.

Further consternation has been caused by the government’s ban on pupils being allowed to resit exams several times, which heads say will make it difficult to compare the current results with those in previous years.

Partly as a result of these changes, some 330 state secondary schools failed to see 40 per cent of their pupils achieve at least five A*-C grades, up from 154 last year. On average 56.6 per cent of pupils in state schools secured five such grades.

It is likely that the problems of comparison will increase when the first pupils sit tougher GCSEs in English and Maths from 2017, as part of reforms to bring more rigour to the exam system, largely abolishing coursework.

Ahead of the tables’ publication, Richard Harman, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents about 270 leading independent schools, 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,” Mr Harman, also headmaster of Uppingham school, added. “This obviously absurd situation creates further confusion for parents as they cannot compare schools’ performance accurately and transparently.”

However, he insisted that many private schools would continue to offer the iGCSE because they know what worked for their pupils, “regardless of the vagaries of political decision making”.

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