Secondary School league tables: Warning as staff and pupils ‘face double injustice’

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THE HEAD TEACHER of a Yorkshire school warns that staff and pupils are facing a double injustice after league tables were produced in spite of a continuing legal battle over the way thousands of GCSE English papers were marked.

Christopher Walsh, the head of Boston Spa School, said the “grading fiasco” last summer meant that this year’s secondary school league tables were “not fit for purpose”.

A national campaign involving 11 Yorkshire councils and more than 20 secondary schools from the region were granted a court hearing after challenging the way in which grade boundaries were moved in GCSE English between January and June.

They claimed that exam boards moved the goalposts in order to make it more difficult to achieve C grades after concerns about the numbers of pupils earning good results in controlled assessment work which was sat in January.

In a High Court hearing last month the alliance said some students had been the victims of a radical change in grade boundaries that occurred without warning after Ofqual had given an instruction to exam boards to avoid “grade inflation” with year-on-year improvements.

They claimed there was “grade manipulation” by the examination boards to meet Ofqual’s “statistical fix” and this amounted to an unlawful abuse of power.

The action was taken against the exam boards AQA and EdExcel and the regulator Ofqual which all denied they acted unlawfully or unfairly.

Mr Walsh said the way grade boundaries were moved meant 44 of his students had not been given a C despite producing C grade work.

“Our school had 47 per cent of pupils achieving five A* to grades including English and maths. This is down from 55 per cent of pupils last year. If the pupils who earned a C had been given one our figure would have been 60 per cent.

“Ever since this happened I have accepted that we would be measured in the league tables using these results. I may not like it but I have accepted it. However, what I will never be able to accept is that there are students who were not given a C despite producing C grade work.

“The school could move up the league tables next year but these students will not get another chance.

“There are two things which are unfair – the terrible injustice of all of those young people who were denied a C grade, and now schools being judged on a league table which is flawed.

“I have always accepted league tables but this year they are not fit for purpose.

“They will not measure pupil performance, all they will show is when a pupil’s work in English was assessed and which exam board a school used. There could also be some serious underperformance which is masked by these tables.”

Mr Walsh said he would go to London to hear the court verdict when it was announced adding: “I will take a bag with me big enough to come home with those 44 C grades”

Despite the controversy over the way English papers were marked, every authority in Yorkshire has seen an increase in the level of pupils achieving five A* to C grades at GCSE including English and maths.

Councils across the region have praised pupils performance.

Students in Kirklees have posted record-breaking GCSE results which are better than any other authority area in West Yorkshire.

Council leader Mehboob Khan said: “Students in Kirklees have achieved another excellent set of results, reflecting their own commitment and talent and also the hard work of staff.

“The number of students with five or more A* to C grades including English and maths – the key benchmark – has reached a new high, of which everyone involved can be very proud. Results in Kirklees show a year-on-year improvement and compare extremely well with neighbouring authorities.”

In York almost two thirds of pupils, 62.7 per cent, achieved the GCSE benchmark in 2012 up slightly on 2011. However there was a major increase in pupils achieving five good grades in any subject, up four per cent to 88 per cent. The council said that the results for those pupils eligible for free school meals have increased significantly for the third successive year.

Education bosses in Doncaster have hailed a 12 per cent increase in the level of students achieving the GCSE benchmark compared with four years ago.