Head teachers’ unions and academies team up to establish new league table

Aug 13, 2014 by

Rival ranking will focus on GCSE results as well as class size and extracurricular activities such as music and sport

After years of objecting to school league tables, headteachers’ unions are to establish a rival league table promising to offer more information for parents and downplay recent Department for Education rule changes.

The Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers – which together represent the bulk of state school heads – are to join the United Learning academy chain and the PiXL network in promoting the league table

The rankings, which will first focus on secondary schools, are expected to cover GCSE results, extra-curricular activities such as music and sport, the curriculum and other measures such as class sizes and subjects.

They will have an immediate advantage over official DfE league tables by being more timely, with schools able to update their A-level and GCSE results in time for parents facing crucial secondary school application decisions in October. The DfE’s performance tables are not updated with the latest exam data until January, after school application season has passed.

The appeal for schools is that the new table promises to circumvent DfE efforts to downgrade the status of “GCSE equivalents” – qualifications such as Btecs – to boost performances, as well as new DfE rules that aimed to stop schools entering pupils for multiple versions of the same exam until they passed.

“This new way of presenting information will provide a real opportunity for school leaders to help parents understand the complexities of school outcomes by publishing the results that students actually achieve without the artificial filters that are based on the politics of the day or hour,” said Sir John Rowling, chair of PiXL.

Research by the Sutton Trust found most academy chains relied heavily on equivalent qualifications, and underperform on the DfE’s English Baccalaureate measure, which charts the percentage of students in a school who achieve five or more A*-C grades in English, maths, sciences, a foreign language and history or geography at GCSE level.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We have taken steps to make our league tables clearer and, in addition to our data, all schools must publish extensive information on their website – including pupil progress. Our tables are only published after robust checks so parents know the information we are giving them is accurate.

“Children should not be entered for exams before they’re ready, and then for re-sits, or other exams in the same subject. Making more use of end-of-course exams for GCSEs will remove the incentive to game the system in this way.”

The methodology of the new league table is yet to be announced, but the organisers say it will publish “results in unadulterated form so that parents can judge for themselves how local schools have performed”.

The DfE’s own revised league tables come into effect in 2016, using a more sophisticated measure known as Progress 8. The new DfE table will sharply downgrade the effect of GCSE equivalents and avoids the flaw of the current format, which requires students to gain at least a C at GCSE level to count as a pass.

That has led to a “threshold effect” which rewards schools getting students from D to C grades, but not for getting them from C to B grades or higher. The organisers say of the new private table say it will be broadened over time to include other areas of interest to parents, such as the quality of a school’s extra-curricular activity and “the wider educational experience that pupils receive”.

The National Union of Teachers remains unimpressed with the spread of league tables. “We urge all those taking this initiative to recognise that the international evidence shows that collaboration between schools is more successful than competition and this can be inhibited by a league table mentality,” said Kevin Courtney, the NUT’s deputy general secretary.

via Head teachers’ unions and academies team up to establish new league table | Education | The Guardian.

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