The release of secondary school league tables last week has once again prompted a flurry of protest and controversy among parents and head teachers, with many rushing to criticise flaws and perceived unfairness in the ranking system. Recent overhauls in the ranking system have seen an overall drop in schools’ results, as results for certain qualifications deemed too “easy” have been discounted and pass marks for certain subjects appear to have been raised. Data has also been skewed by the government’s refusal to acknowledge IGCSE grades (international GCSEs), which has left schools whose students take IGCSEs instead of the normal GCSEs with a 0% average mark, even though their students may have performed very highly.
National GCSE results are calculated by the number of pupils in a school who achieve at least five A* - C grades in their exams, with the national average falling from 59.2% in 2014 to 57.1% in the results just released for 2015. Sutton schools still came fourth in the country at an average of 70.4%, a little behind Kingston’s 73.2%, but seems to have undergone the same 2% decline that has been seen across the country, falling from last year’s 72.1% average.
2015 was also the last year in which schools will be ranked by the traditional league table method, as 2016 will see the adoption of the Progress 8 system, which gives extra weighting to core subjects such as maths, English, and the sciences. The Progress 8 system is intended to prevent schools from “gaming” the system by getting their students to avoid tougher subjects where they might get lower marks, as it requires students to take a set number of EBacc (English Baccalaureate) subjects, which are traditionally in more “serious” fields like languages, history and science. It remains to be seen how this will affect schools in the coming year, although the many local grammar schools already follow a similar programme in their curricula, which prioritise the same “high-value” subjects including in the Progress 8 scheme.
For a comparison of GCSE results across the country, The Telegraph has an interactive rankings map available at their website.