League tables branded a ‘nonsense’ by private schools

BBC News, 29/01/15, Scores of England's top private secondaries expect to be at the bottom of the school league tables, following confusion over International GCSEs. HMC Chairman, Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School is quoted.

School leaders dismissed this year's tables as a "nonsense", with many schools "caught unawares" by a shift in which qualifications are recognised.

It centres on the phasing out of unaccredited IGCSEs from the tables.

The government said it had made important changes to a system that had rewarded the wrong outcomes.

The IGCSE is sat by candidates overseas, but has also long been favoured by many private schools and some leading state schools in England 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.

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 league 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.

"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."

'Caught unawares'

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College leaders, said "quite a few schools have fallen foul" of the various changes to school league tables "by continuing with exams that don't count".

"This calls into question the validity of the performance tables, and the government has promoted these qualifications [IGCSES] heavily in the early years of the coalition, but now they have decided that they want everyone to do the new GCSEs.

"Lots of independent schools are carrying on with IGCSEs and have no intention of stopping - their reputation goes beyond the league tables."

He added that some state schools had been "caught unawares", adding that many were already unhappy with the way their results had been presented in government data.

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