Top independent UK schools abandon league tables in favour of international exams

Re:locate, 01.02.16, increasing numbers of prominent private schools are abandoning "irrelevant" GCSE and A-level school tables, preferring instead to concentrate on international qualifications.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Wellington College was the latest to decide it would no longer participate in the tables, saying they fail to recognise the tougher qualifications the school uses and the wider education it offers.

Eton College, St Paul's and Winchester College have previously announced they will no longer submit their exam results and Peter Green, headmaster at Rugby, has indicated he will consider exiting league tables, as he did in his previous school, Ardingly College.

"Many private schools favour International GCSEs (IGCSEs) instead of the standard GCSEs taken in state schools. However, they are not recognised by the government for the purposes of rankings, meaning schools appear at the bottom of the tables, despite receiving good results," said the Telegraph.

Julian Thomas, who took over as Wellington College's head last September, when Sir Anthony Seldon retired from the post, told the newspaper that he would be informing parents this week of the decision to quit the tables.

"Increasingly the league tables have been irrelevant as they attempt to compare different qualifications. Consider the post-16 qualifications: students take A-Level, IB and Pre-U," he said. "In an attempt to make comparisons, league tables have created artificial tariffs and equivalences that are simply not valid.

"We should recognise that there are exceptional schools outside the top 200 just as there may be mediocre schools inside the top 50. We simply cannot tell from the information provided. Yet we all collude in this harmful merry-go-round through our seemingly unquenchable fascination with measurement and comparison.

"It is clear that all schools have to genuinely commit to an education which goes way beyond simply the acquisition of grades A*-C. We have to equip our children with the skills and aptitudes they need to live, thrive and survive in the future.

"Skills such a critical thinking, problem solving, independent thinking and learning, leadership and creativity."

Mr Thomas added that, while Wellington would no longer make data available for compilation of league tables, the results would be available to parents on the school's website.

"If people wish to make comparisons they are welcome to do so, but our own focus will be on other, more important, indicators of educational success," he said, adding that he would like to see the government and education authorities create a new system of school and student assessment which "could evolve to meet the needs of current and future generations".

Rugby head Mr Green said league tables were used by schools to make "extraordinary claims about themselves". He added, "The whole sense of 'hooray, we've reached the league tables' doesn't fit with me. It's like comparing apples and pears. How can you compare boarding schools with very selective grammar schools, or single sex?

"In an attempt to make comparisons, league tables have created artificial tariffs and equivalences that are simply not valid."

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