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News - 15 October 2013

School league tables widen to eight subjects

In a measure designed to prevent an over-emphasis on pupils achieving C grades at GCSE, Schools Minister David Laws is proposing that from 2016, schools will be measured on overall results in eight GCSE subjects.

There will be four key league table measures, showing pupils' progress as well as final grades.

Education Select Committee chairman Graham Stuart has hailed the change as an "educational breakthrough". He went on to say that it would remove the "damaging obsession" with the C grade boundary.

Setting out the reforms in the House of Commons, Mr Laws said they would remove "perverse incentives for schools to act in a way which is not in the best interests of pupils".

It will mean shifting away from the current league table system, where schools are ranked by the percentage of pupils achieving five GCSEs grades A* to C, including English and maths.

From 2016 there will be four league table measures for schools.

Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
“It will show pupils' achievements across their best eight subjects - including English and maths, three core English Baccalaureate subjects including history, geography, physics, chemistry and languages and three other subjects which can include art, music, drama and business.”

As well as showing GCSE results there will be a measure of progress, showing how pupils have advanced since taking tests at the end of primary school. This will be expressed as a score showing how much the results vary above or below expected levels. If schools achieve the expected levels they will score zero - and if they are below expected levels, they will have a minus score.

The revised league tables will mean changes to the way underperformance and minimum "floor targets" are measured. Mr Laws defined the new floor standard as "progress half a grade lower than reasonable expectations. So, if pupils at a school are expected to average a B in their eight subjects, the school will be below the floor if they average less than four Bs and four Cs".

"The fact that the new accountability measures will put many more schools below the new floor targets will be devastating to many," said the National Union of Teacher's leader, Christine Blower.

But she welcomed the "move away from a 'spotlight' on pupils on the C/D borderline. It still remains the case however that a league table and target culture will persist".

Head teachers' leader Brian Lightman said there was much to welcome in the changes, including the shift away from focusing on the C grade boundary.

Mary Bousted, leader of the ATL teachers' union, backed the principle of "prioritising the progress schools make with their pupils rather than simply rewarding those with the top grades".

If you need any help and advice with Free School or Academy Schools, contact Lavinia Newman or Peter Ham now to discuss how ABDS can help bring their experience to these matters.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
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