GCSE ranking system to be scrapped

The Coalition is abolishing league tables in their current form because they focus too much on the number of pupils gaining five A* to C grades, but the reforms may result in more schools failing.

The government believes that the current system lets too many ‘coasting’ schools, that admit bright children at 11 but fail to push them by the time they sit GCSEs, off the hook, The Independent reports. Critics have claimed that it leads to a focus on borderline pupils – those on the cusp of a C/D grade – at the expense of both the less able and the brightest.

Instead, from summer 2016 secondary league tables will rank schools on their performance in their best eight GCSE subjects – rather than the current five – and measure them against how well schools in similar circumstances perform.

Schools Minister David Laws said that the changes would lead to double the number of ‘coasting’ schools being branded as failing: “These schools find it easy to hit targets based on five C grades. The school may look successful, but Cs are not a success if pupils are capable of more. The accountability system must set challenging but fair expectations for every school, whatever its intake.”

The reforms had a mixed reception from teaching unions. The NUT was concerned about a new ranking that will show the destination of school leavers. General secretary Christine Blower said it would “cause great consternation for those in areas of high unemployment or whose pupils cannot afford to go on to further education.”

Headteachers welcomed the move, with NAHT’s Russell Hobby saying: “For the first time league tables will value the achievement and progress of every child equally rather than just those on the C/D borderline. They put an appropriate emphasis on English and maths but also recognise achievement across a broader curriculum.”

What do you think about the changes? Will they measure all pupils’ progress more effectively?


8 thoughts on “GCSE ranking system to be scrapped

  1. And the good thing is that the ‘coasting’ schools will not be able to rig the GCSE table by filling it with a basic Btec Pass to give them 3C’s any more for a learner.
    Or Cs in such things as Religious Education or even in their parent’s native tongue (such as Turkish)

    As an FE tutor I find it frustrating that a student can do a Btec ‘Award’ in two areas which gives them Cs as vocational grades, (they do not even push them to try for merits on the Btec, as that would give the learners Bs!), have GCSE C in RE or D&T or even a A* in Turkish but still have grade E or even less in maths and English!
    It may help that school’s league table, but that learner is disadvantaged for the rest of their education by having skills too low for higher level courses.

    It is just a shame that the schools who do produce good grade Cs or above in the core subjects now need to do more to keep their place in the tables because of those who ‘coast’

  2. I do think that this is an improvement. As a SEN teacher the achievements of my students who often make amazing progress..value added…but who may not be able to attain the magic C grade…they are often forgotten as staff work with the D/C borderline.
    I hope that soon more emphasis will go to value added gains..no matter what grade, and that more value will be given to students who choose other routes…not college…when they leave school.

  3. Like so many initiatives, the aim is a good one. The problem arises in terms of measurement. You can only measure accurate achievement based on testing before delivery and then after – and you have import an expectation growth based on the individuals themselves. You can’t just have a bald uplift right across the learner base. This system as set out will simply see huge changes in ranking annually that will confuse parents while being effectively meaningless. Statistically measurement of achievement actually has no better scientific basis than measuring the success of weathermen in their predictions of each day’s weather. It’s an illusory phenomenon.

  4. It is no secret that this government want state schools to fail. Then, they can hand them over to their Adacemy buddies. I do not remember ANY revisions being made to independent schools, OR league tables, OR Ofsted failures. This government wants to ensure that state-educated children fail, thus leaving the places at Universities for their own children and those of a similar class. Why do you think they increased the tuition fees to £9k a year, and at the same time handed high earners a tax break of – wait for it – £9k a year? The government seem to believe that “improvement” in education is linear – that is, it should go up year by year. Well then, lets extrapolate this line of progression backwards. Before 1991, before the introdction of the national curriculum, our state schools had no discipline difficulties – kids were punished or expelled – and it was NOT the school’s fault. Yet still, state schools created MPs, doctors, surgeons, etc. So SOMETHING must have been right.

  5. Do these politicians really have a clue what they are doing to the education system? It seems that they spout one soundbite after another to show that they are doing something with “Education”. But it doesn’t seem thought-through at all!

    How will comparison “with other schools in similar circumstances” demonstrate how well children improve from Y7 – Y11? Surely this should be done on an individual pupil basis?

    And how will they account for discrepancies in the data caused by children who do not make “progress” because of circumstances beyond the school’s control – eg parental divorce, illness etc?

    Furthermore, with the powers-that-be changing the goalposts all the time – for instance the fiasco over English grades last year and now the tightening of the GCSE papers, how on earth can any school really show accurate improvements for the next 5 years? What is the baseline?

    I agree that the current system does not really measure improvement at all, but I wonder if there really is an accurate way to measure this? Perhaps some sort of index based on behaviour, truancy, academic results (for each year group, not just GCSE), EQ (emotional quotient) etc could reflect a more accurate picture of each school showing each school’s strengths and weaknesses. After all, the main reason for comparing schools is to give parents the best advice on where to send their children, to close low performing schools and to promote high performing schools. If you can show that school A gets good results with children who are more artistic and creative while school B is the sort of school that children with more mathematical / scientific talents thrive, surely this is best for the children?

  6. We had a good measure of school performance in Contextualised Value Added – not perfect, I grant you, but annual refinement of the algorithm was improving it as it went along. They (the Labour government, if memory serves) dropped it as a measure of school effectiveness – was it perhaps because it suggested schools were actually performing better than was politically convenient for the Department for Education?

  7. To be quite honest what was wrong with the 1960’s- 1980’s way of teaching a child. Bring back home economics and general economics as this always covered a mass of quality based education. Children these days can’t do up there own shoe laces without there being a chenge to how perfect it should be done. 1 + 1 =2 not if there was Jane and Billy how many people are there altogether, they need to get the basics right before moving on. Lets get the kids to add up and read for their needs, if they need to gain greater levels for their career choice then that is the time to push for harder stuff.kids are deprived of basic skills. I teach in adult education and find out that a large percentage of my learners were left in the corner with a teddy or toy to keep qiuet and out of the way of the more able.

  8. I have to agree with Laoise and add that, Not all kids are academic, and vocational courses should be taken into account and more offered. I worked in a very challenging school that shut down because of a back bitting politician, and because of its poor results and behaviour issues. However, some of those kids loved mechanics and building things but never got the opportunity. Some of the worse kids, in terms of behaviour were allowed to get away with too much because of finance and bureaucracy, and hence effected the work of other kids who were capable of achieving good GCSE grades. Politicians have no idea, and old has been ofsted inspectors have no idea either. I would like to see one of those old inspectors teach a lesson in what they call an inadequate lesson/school, i bet they wouldn’t last five minutes. I think radical change is need, but not one way fits all. No teacher gets into teaching for the money, holidays or any other reason than because they want to give the kids the best possible start in life, and opportunities to experience different parts of life. That is why they run clubs above and beyond the normal everyday teaching commitment. Lunch times on the run, after a quick bit to eat, or sometimes going without. Is this taken into account when they slap the label of inadequate on some poor teacher who is deemed to have not taught the kids the way someone else thinks they should. I have actually been on both ends of the spectrum at one time or other during my career.

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