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Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 09:23 GMT
Selective schools top league tables
Head teacher and pupils at this year's
Head and pupils at this year's "most improved" school

Schools which select their pupils by ability dominate the English secondary school performance tables - even on new measures giving a better indication of children's progress.

BBC NEWS ONLINE'S SCHOOL TABLES
Results from 4,000 schools
A page for each school
GCSE/GNVQ results
New: Key Stage 3 test scores
New: "value added" measures

But specialist schools seem no better at teaching children from ages 11 to 14 than non-specialists, which get less funding.

The official performance data show the GCSE and GNVQ results as usual and, for the first time, the results of national curriculum tests taken by 14 year olds in English, maths and science.

With those come new "value added" measures designed to show the progress children have made between different stages of their schooling.

Grammar defender

Topping the league tables on the traditional measure - the proportion of pupils getting at least five good GCSEs - is the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

The headmaster, Tim Dingle, said their success was down to one thing: "We give the best teachers the best opportunity to achieve success."

That included providing food and accommodation for 12 teachers, so those newly qualified could pay off their student debts quickly and were motivated to stay.

The school's ethos was "excellence not elitism" - and he would fight any attempt to abolish grammar schools "with every breath in my body".

This year's "most improved" school is Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat Church of England Secondary School in Tower Hamlets, east London.

The proportion of pupils getting good GCSEs or GNVQs went from 22% in 1999 to 69% last year.

Adding value

The new "value added" measures track children's progress between the ages of 11 and 14, and between 14 and their GCSEs.

If a school scored 100, its pupils were making average progress compared with similar pupils nationally.

The Department for Education says schools that are several points or more above 100 are adding significant value to children's attainment.

Those well below are adding significantly less - potentially even detracting from the children's achievements.

Specialist schools, given extra cash to spearhead government efforts to raise standards, seem no better at teaching children from 11 to 14 than "bog standard" comprehensives.

The specialists scored 100 on average, the others 99.8 - statistically indistinguishable.

'Can do'

It had been expected that the new measures would show up comprehensives that were doing well in bringing on children in disadvantaged circumstances.

Only eight schools are in the top 5% of all schools nationally on both "value added" measures.

Of those, only two are comprehensives - one of them a city technology college.

Top is The Latymer School in Edmonton, north London.

There are lies, damn lies and league tables

John Dunford, Secondary Heads Association

Its head teacher, Michael Cooper, attributed the success to the quality of his teachers and a "can-do culture".

He said the selective intake was not the issue - comprehensives which put children into ability sets could see similar improvements.

"It's a red herring to go on about grammar schools."

Faith schools ride high

The principal of the second-placed school for adding value, Rabbi Abraham Pinter, would agree.

Yesodey Hatorah School is a private school - though about to join the maintained sector - in the Orthodox Jewish community of Stamford Hill in north London.

And it is non-selective, Rabbi Pinter is keen to point out, priding itself on doing well by children with special educational needs as well as the high flyers.

"We put a lot of emphasis on values and try to develop the character of every child," he said.

Two other private faith schools - both Islamic girls' schools - are in the top 11 nationally for adding value. One is selective, the other not.

In the GCSE years 85 out of 86 state schools in the top 5% were non-selective.

However all but two of the 77 schools in the top 5% for progress in the first three years of secondary education - which ministers say are the most crucial - were grammar schools.

The leader of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, said the new measures were just perpetuating the damaging myths of the crude and unfair tables based on five A* to C pass rates.

"There are lies, damn lies and league tables," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"Teaching unions have welcomed the new, fairer tables"
school league tables

ENGLAND SECONDARY

ENGLAND PRIMARY

SCOTLAND SECONDARY

TALKING POINT
See also:

14 Feb 03 | Education
21 Jan 03 | Education
21 Jan 03 | Education
28 Nov 02 | Education
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