THE LATEST secondary league tables are set to be the last time schools will be judged on the numbers of pupils who achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths.
The tables published today show schools in each education authority area ranked by the proportion of pupils who get to this benchmark.
And the Department for Education has also set floor targets for schools based on this.
Secondary schools are classed as being beneath the floor if less than 40 per cent of pupils achieve at least five A* to C grades, including English and maths, and the school’s pupils fail to keep pace with the national average level of progress in both.
However there were concerns that this approach meant schools were focussing their attention on pupils on the C/D borderline at the expense of both the more and less academically able students.
From next year school’s performance will be judged on a new measure, known as “Progress 8”.
The new benchmark is based on the progress pupils make from the end of primary school up to their results across eight GCSE subjects: English and maths; three choices from the range of traditional “English Baccalaureate” subjects (sciences, computer science, geography, history and foreign languages); and three subjects which can either be from the EBacc set or any other approved arts, academic or vocational qualification.
The Government has said the new indicator is designed to encourage schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum at GCSE and reward schools for the teaching of all pupils.
Schools will be given an overall score based on how well pupils progress compared to the national average. A new Government floor target is being introduced to establish which schools are considered under-performing.
This year, 327 secondaries chose to adopt the new measure a year early, and have been judged against this, rather than the traditional five A*-C system. A total of 17 schools have been found to be under-performing.
The move to Progress 8 has been welcomed by schools.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There needs to be some caution because we have to see how well Progress 8 works in practice and deal with any teething problems.
“This is particularly so this year because about a quarter of primary schools boycotted Key Stage 2 tests in 2010 and it will have been more difficult to measure the progress of any of these pupils without these results.
“Overall, however, Progress 8 is a fairer way of judging schools. Measuring schools on GCSE attainment does not take into account the fact that children are at different points when they start their secondary education.
“Schools may be doing a fantastic job in helping struggling pupils make great progress, but judging them on GCSE results does not reflect this because it is based on the grades achieved rather than the progress made.”
Stephen Wren, the assistant headteacher of Tadcaster Grammar said: “The five A* to C measure including English and Maths can encourage schools to focus on students on the C/D borderline in maths and English. The published results of a school can effectively come down to how well and handful of students on the C/D borderline did in maths and English while ignoring whether they got an A* or a C. The Department of Education have developed new performance measures to replace the existing one - Attainment 8 and Progress 8. We believe these represent a significant improvement on the current measure.
“They tie in with our focus in school on valuing “every student, every subject, every grade”. If we can support students to gain an A grade rather than a B; or an E grade rather than an F then the new measures value those improvements while the previous one did not.”
However Russell Hobby the general secretary of the National Association of head teachers suggested that Progress 8 will be overwhelmed the need for schools to do EBacc subjects.
He also sounded a note of caution about league tables in a time when schools are facing constant reform.
Mr Hobby said “Heads, staff and students have worked hard in every secondary school across the country to raise standards at a time of immense turmoil and disruption. We pay tribute to their dedication.
“Unfortunately there has been so much change that the national statistics generated by the government are increasingly dubious. Comparing one year with another, or one group of schools with another, is precarious at best when the very basis of measurement is different each time. The government must be careful what conclusions it draws.
“We desperately need stable measures of a stable examination system. We need this in order for data to become meaningful again. We need this, above all, so that schools and teachers can focus on teaching to the best of their ability rather than coping with constant change.
“The time of change is not over yet, as the government plans to revise the way the Ebacc is used in future performance tables. Yet these tables published today showcase the value of the new Progress8 measure. The Progress 8 measure, only recently implemented, provides the required balance between academic rigour and curriculum breadth.
“But Progress 8 will be overwhelmed by the Ebacc before it has had a chance to prove its worth. The pace of change has become so intense in education that the government is increasingly replacing its own initiatives before they have even been fully implemented.”
Why straight A students will be seeking a nine
IT IS not only league tables which are undergoing major reforms in the years ahead.
Schools, teachers and pupils are also faced with an overhaul of the qualifications.
A new marking system starts to come in from 2017 which will see GCSE students graded from nine to one rather than A to G. Nine will be the highest mark rather than one.
The new grades are coming in with new reformed GCSEs which are now being taught in schools. The new exams, which are said to be more rigorous, have started being delivered to year ten pupils in schools this academic year in English Literature, English Language and maths. These pupils will be the first to be graded from nine to one in 2017.
At an Education Select Committee hearing last year, MP Ian Austin suggested employers would be confused by the change. However Ofqual’s chief regulator Glenys Stacey said the new grades would help to signal that students had earned grades in a more rigorous qualification.
The new system also aims to make it easier to identify the strongest performing pupils