Talking heads: changes to league tables ‘complicated’

League table changes cause concern.
League table changes cause concern.

Headteachers are hitting back at the Department for Education’s (DfE) league tables.

The number of secondary schools considered to be under-performing has doubled, Government figures show, but many educators say the decline is due to an overhaul of how success is measured.

Only a student’s first attempt at a GCSE is included in the annual performance tables from now, and some vocational qualifications have been stripped out of the rankings.

Boroughbridge High School head Geoff Jenkinson said: “I have been a headteacher for 20 years in three North Yorkshire schools and every year there are issues as Governments make attempts to improve the system and make subjects more rigorous.

“That intention is laudable but sometimes that complicates things unnecessarily for students. I think we have to take it on the chin if we think where we are going is better than where we were before, and I certainly think it is.

“You have just got to stick to what you believe is right for young people. That is the key to sustainable excellence rather than a one-off spike.”

A total of 330 schools nationally fell below the Government’s floor target this year, up from 154 last year, after failing to ensure at least 40 per cent of pupils gained five good GCSE grades and made decent progress in the basics under the reformed performance tables. This increase has caused concern that schools will appear to be failing not just because of changes to the system but also what the public may see as volatility in last summer’s GCSE results.

The new league tables have worked well for some schools, like Ripon Grammar, which has maintained a high figure.

Headmaster Martin Pearman said: “I am absolutely delighted with the outcome from the league tables, we had an exceptional year last year with the highest percentage of A* and A grades we have ever had.

“We did have an early entry for maths but students all got the top grade. That has always been our policy, so that has never really affected us.

“I have never tried to play curriculum games by sitting exams at a particular time or one that is easier. The league table position, at the end of the day, is not that important to me – what is important is that students achieve their potential.”

PERCENTAGE OF STUDENTS WITH 5 A*-C GCSES:

Boroughbridge High School: 59 per cent in 2013, 52 per cent in 2014; Outwood Academy Ripon: 71 per cent in 2013, 63 per cent in 2014;Ripon Grammar School: 98 per cent in 2013, 97 per cent in 2014.

According to the DfE, due to reforms the 2014 figures are not directly comparable to previous years.

– Outwood Academy Ripon head Angela Sweeten was not available to comment.