Friday, January 11, 2008

League Tables

Clive Davis indulges in a little 'Four Yorkshireman' one-downmanship with regard to how his old school is faring in the GCSE league tables.
This year, her old school notched up 39 per cent. Mine was on 22, which is one up from last year, but which still defines it as a failing school. I have no idea why the results are so poor - it wasn't that bad a place when I was there, but that was 30 years ago.
I think I can do better than that. My alma mater, which you wouldn't necessarily think of as a sink inner-city slum, has some rather surprising results this year. Apparently, at Winchester College last year, not a single pupil managed to get 5 GCSEs at grades C and above. Presumably standards have rather plummeted since I was there. Given that this nul-acheivement band is populated exclusively by independent schools, one is left with the happy conclusion that state schools are now infinitely superior. Hurrah!
The rock-bottom ratings come because most independent schools have dropped traditional GCSEs and moved towards the tougher International GCSE - an alternative qualification based on the old O-level. About half of private schools in England offer the IGCSE in at least one subject, including English, maths and science. They complain that the mainstream qualification is too reliant on coursework and fails to stretch the brightest students. But IGCSE is not recognised by the Government, which has effectively blocked state schools from offering the more challenging exam.
So in other words it's little more than Government gerry-mandering of the results. No surprise there. But in truth the league tables have always been flawed. A confession: I am not 'registered' as having achieved more than 5 GCSEs at A-C. The reason is that I did my GCSEs in chunks according to how good I was at them. I took French and Latin a year early, the sciences two terms early and English, Maths and Spanish on time. This was interpreted as my having taken first 2 GCSEs, then 3, then 3. In other words, at no time did I achieve 5. So, if you're trying to judge a school by its GCSE results - probably it's best that you don't.

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