A short blog on school performance tables

A short blog on school performance tables

This is my 6th year as a Headteacher and, following publication of the school performance tables this week, I have to say I am completely despondent about the whole matter.

I have always said that, as a HT, I would always lead a school did the best that it could for our students. Last year we had our highest ever percentage of students achieving 5A*-C including English and Maths (68%). We didn’t buckle when Mr Gove changed the rules relating to performance tables in 2013 and, because we thought it was the best for our students, we entered everyone for their GCSE English and Maths in the November of Year 11. The argument was that, if we thought it was educationally sound for our kids before Gove’s announcement, surely it was still educationally sound after his announcement. In short, we put the achievement of our students before our place in the performance tables.

Can I just say that I agreed with Mr Gove completely when he complained about students entering multiple exams with multiple exam boards to get the best result possible. He was right-these schools were ‘gaming’. Schools who entered a student in the November of their Year 11 and the again in the summer term with the same exam board were definitely not gaming however.

In putting the achievement of our students ahead of our place in the performance tables we knew our place in the tables would drop. We didn’t worry because our argument was that our policy of early entry in English and Maths significantly benefited our students and, for us, this was far, far more important than our place in the performance tables.

The dilemma for me, and I guess many other HTs up and down the country, is how we continue to do what is best for our students in the face of a system of accountability (league tables) that is completely inaccurate.

Private schools simply do not give a toss about performance tables. Both Eton and Harrow scored 0% 5A*-C including English and Maths in the tables this year because they continue to use the IGCSE. Do they worry about their position?-no. Do they worry about being taken over by an academy chain because of poor performance?-no. Do their kids achieve success and move onto universities and higher education?-yes.

So, if this formula works for our private schools, why are we in the state sector terrified to stand up to the dogma of league table performance for state schools?

The answer, in short, is around isolation. I do not really care about the tables. I know that our students achieved significantly above the national average despite what the tables said. I also know that many local schools are in the same position as me, yet we say nothing because the tables make us ‘scared’. We are scared of OFSTED and the threat of ‘academisation’ if our place in the tables drops.

How good would it be if every single state secondary school in the country refused to acknowledge the performance tables? How good would it be if every one of us stood up and said to the DfE ‘We refuse to play your games and we will do what is right for our students’?’ How good would it be if every secondary school in the country did what was right for their kids, free from the worry of forced academisation or a Grade 3/4 from an already discredited OFSTED?

Individual schools can’t do this. We can’t (and won’t) do it because the repercussions for our students and staff are too severe.

Imagine though, if every single state secondary school decided to act together and do what was right for the kids and not the performance tables. Imagine that.  Imagine if we all refused to be dictated to by our place on the performance tables and all stood together to decry them as nonsense.

Imagine that and how powerful a message this would be.

Time that we all got together and made a stand.

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6 thoughts on “A short blog on school performance tables”

  1. I don’t disagree with your sentiment Paul, however I think your answer is a tad simplistic and unrealistic. It also misses one essential point and that is that parents should be able to make a straightforward, informed and easily accessible comparative assessment of performance between schools.

    While league tables are a blunt instrument in this regard and are indeed nonsense if the Government keep changing the way performance is measured and schools continue to manipulate the system for their own ends rather for the good of the students, they are what they are and they are all that we have right now. I would like to see a period of consistency and continuity now that changes have been made. Sure, comparisons with last years tables are rubbish, but next years tables should be useful, if the basic measurement parameters remain unaltered.

    The problem is that as soon as the Government changes, the new incumbents will want to change the performance measures yet again to show themselves in a good light. If and when this happens, sadly nobody wins!

    1. Agree that parents should have information to make informed decisions-but that information should be accurate. For many, many schools the info contained in the tables is not reflective of the actual attainment of the students. Not sure how this is helpful to parents.

  2. I think we are in broad agreement – we want accurate, consistent measurements of attainment that can be easily understood by parents and that cannot be manipulated by either schools or politicians in circumstances of under-performance. Not sure if this will ever be possible though.

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