9th February 2017
Why are League Tables important?
Once again the government has moved the goalposts for measuring school performance. This year is the first time schools have not been judged solely on how many pupils score at least 5 GCSE grades A*- C, but by the two new measures Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Similarly, schools and colleges providing A-Levels for 16-18 year-olds are given a positive or negative progress score that can be compared against the national average. The tables are complicated and difficult to read and make it virtually impossible to make meaningful comparisons between schools. Schools are ranked by “progress” but this is an inherently difficult thing to measure when the starting points and backgrounds of children entering a school are so different, as is often the case with independent schools recruiting large numbers of international pupils. *
Nobody should question the importance of schools being accountable, but what should be measured and how should it be reported? “% A*-C passes at GCSE”, “% GCSE passes including English and Maths”, “value added”, “contextual value added”, “% passes in ‘facilitating subjects’”. The whole great bureaucracy of school performance measurement is a complete muddle which is why many parents and heads declare that league tables are not important.
This is a mistake. League tables ARE important, and especially for parents investing in independent education for their children.
Ultimately schools are about educating children and few would define “education” as something only to be measured only by a set of exam grades. The key here is “only”. Exam grades are important and to question this is to undermine the whole purpose of what goes on in classrooms up and down the country. This includes the efforts of students striving to achieve the best results they are capable of. Every child knows that achieving highly, and gaining recognition for it, is something to strive for. The grades achieved in public exams have a clear impact on future Higher Education and career options. Acknowledging the importance of exam grades does not devalue other aspects of education.
Parents paying a school to educate their child have a right to know how children in that school tend to perform in exams. But how should you read a league table and which can you rely on?
Our League Tables are compiled specifically to assist parents investing in private education. They are clear, comprehensive, accurate and user-friendly.
Clear - our criteria for measuring schools are 100% clear. We publish the % of top grades achieved by each exam cohort for each qualification, whether GCSE, A Level/Pre-U and Scottish Highers & Advanced Highers. For the IB we publish the average points achieved by the cohort.
Accurate – we compile our tables from information in the public domain plus data provided by the schools themselves. We take great care to ensure that the results are correct.
Comprehensive – We gather results from as close to 100% of independent schoolsas possible, which is why we publish later than the national press.
User-friendly – we divide our independent school tables by type of school and curriculum. If you are looking for a girls’ only boarding school you can easily find the top schools in this category
How should you use our League Tables?
1. The most important thing to read from a league table is the academic level of the school. If 90% of pupils are achieving top exam grades each year this tells you that the school will have a highly academic focus. The pace in lessons will be fast and students are likley to be in the top ability range and expected to work hard outside lessons.
2. Consider what type of school will suit your child. Schools at the top of the tables in any category will be highly selective. Children will need to pass stiff admissions tests to gain entry. There is no point tutoring a child to pass entrance exams if they will not be happy in a high pressure academic environment.
3. Remember that league tables do not tell you everything about a school and virtually nothing about the wider education the school provides. Other factors are always more important when you are choosing a school.
4. Don’t forget that many of the most prestigious and successful schools will never be in the top 10 or even top 50 of the league tables because they cater for a wider ability range and for children with a broad range of talents and interests. This does not mean that a bright and hardworking child cannot achieve a string of top grades, but it does mean that there will be room in the school for every child to develop and thrive.
• See DfES Tables here
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