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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 January, 2004, 16:20 GMT
Tough schools are getting better
students with books
Schools in disadvantaged areas are improving fastest
Schools in deprived parts of England are improving their GCSE results at double the national rate, government performance tables show.

Selective schools dominate the main results tables - state grammars at GCSE and independent schools at A-level.

But among those with the most effective teaching in the two GCSE years, comprehensives feature just as much as schools which select pupils by ability.

Teachers' unions have denounced the tables as a useless annual ritual.

Pulling their weight

The tables include for only the second year a "value added" measure, intended to show how much schools have improved their students' attainment between tests at the age of 14 and their GCSEs two years later.

Among the top 100 or so on this measure, 75% are comprehensives and 16% are selective - state or independent.

Excluding the smallest schools, these shares almost exactly reflect their proportions among schools as a whole.

HOW THEY PERFORMED
Proportion getting good GCSEs/GNVQs ranges from 100% to 4%
Average was 52.9%
Average for GCSEs only was 49.9%
A/AS-level points per student ranged from 520 to 54.3
Average was 258.6
Comprehensives add as much "value" as selective schools
Girls' schools especially good for "value added"

Last month the government published separate value added tables for the 11 to 14 age group, which were dominated by grammar schools.

Now it is clear that comprehensives are holding their own in the 14 to 16 bracket.

Girls' schools and non-selective independents are disproportionately represented in the top of the table, with three times as many of each as in the country at large.

The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, said the complex method of calculating the value added measure was regarded by the education inspectorate, Ofsted, as being unreliable.

"Since Ofsted recognises the insecurity of the value-added statistics, it is bizarre that the government produces league tables with the same figures," he said.

Other unions again called for the tables to be scrapped - as they have been in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Specialists

The School Standards Minister, David Miliband, said he was pleased that schools in what are known as "challenging" circumstances were doing so well.

The proportion of their pupils achieving at least five good grades in GCSEs and GNVQs rose 2.8, from 26.5% to 29.3%. Nationally, the average was 52.9% - up 1.3.

He also highlighted an analysis which showed that specialist schools outperformed non-specialists by nine percentage points - 56% against 47%.

Criticism

The shadow health and education secretary, Tim Yeo, said: "After seven years of naming and shaming schools that fail to meet their national targets this Labour Government is still leaving hundreds of our most vulnerable pupils behind.

"Conservatives would scrap the interfering national targets, meaning that schools and LEAs would be able to better focus their energies with regard to local need."

Liberal Democrat spokesman Phil Willis said "The performance tables fail to show that the lack of viable alternatives to GCSEs still means that 50% of our students are failing to get the vocational education they deserve.

"Rather than ministers crowing about success, they should hang their heads in shame over their failure to address student needs."


Your comments:

The reason that selective schools appear not to add much value between 14 and 16 is that obtaining GCSEs with a high grade would be a simple task for a bright, well-educated 14-year old. These children can easily tread water until they finally take their GCSEs at 16. A more challenging system is required to push (and motivate) brighter children. Anyone for 'O'-levels?
Neil, Surrey, England

The only reason GCSE results aren't going down is because the grade boundaries are getting lower all the time to hide the fact that standards are slipping.
Paul, Exeter

Another example of this government inventing a statistic to hide chronic public sector problems rather than tackle them. Now so long as Key Stage 3 standards fall faster than those at GCSE level the 'value added' figures will look very good, then all they have to do is continue to make GCSE/A-levels easier to keep pass marks rising and the education system can be left to terminal decline with no-one suspecting a thing until its far too late.
Jason L, London

This is a prime example of the two tier system suffered by those living in Kent. If you can get your child through the 11 plus the future is assured, otherwise, forget it. All the secondary schools in Thanet which are not grammar are below the national average in performance, even the good ones. The grammar schools cream off the 'best' pupils, take the best teachers and most of the money, leaving the rest with the dregs. It's an unfair system. All the secondary schools are overcrowded and understaffed. How can a child hope to learn and flourish in such an environment? These are the people of tomorrow being thrown on the scrap heap, and it's just not fair.
Alison, Kent

Coming from Kent I agree with Alison, to a degree. If the Value Added figures show anything it is that students in Grammar schools make very good progress between the age of 11 and 14 but non-selective students do better between 14 and 16. This is hardly surprising, coming from mixed ability primary schools the top 25% should make rapid progress in Grammar schools but they don't maintain it. While non-selective schools add value (actually make a difference to the grade a student achieves) at GCSE, Grammar students don't appear to.

Therefore the poor performance, in terms of percentage of grade Cs achieved, of non-selective schools in Kent has more to do with their intake than their teaching. If the Grammar school students were distributed evenly across all the schools, then individual school performance may look more like the national average.
Mark, Gravesend, UK




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English secondary schools 2003

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