Schools minister cracks down on league table 'incentives'

Students taking exam The new figures will highlight how students fared from age 11 to 16

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Schools minister Nick Gibb has said he wants to stop schools prioritising their rankings in exam league tables over ensuring a good education for all their pupils.

New league tables for England, out next week, show which schools boost pupils' progress from ages 11 and 16.

Mr Gibb said the old system allowed schools to exploit tables, and some used it to help boost their rankings.

Labour gave the move a cautious welcome.

'Incentivise schools'

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Gibb explained: "The purpose of performance tables must be to incentivise schools to raise standards and to enable parents to make informed decisions when choosing a school."

But he added: "The way school league tables have evolved over the past two decades can encourage a degree of 'gaming' by some weaker schools, desperate to keep above the standard that would trigger intervention by Ofsted or the Department for Education."

Schools minister Nick Gibb Mr Gibb says some schools have been able to abuse the system

Mr Gibb said that, since 1997, the number of C grades awarded had increased because weaker schools had been incentivised to focus on them.

He said this meant students who could have gained As were getting Bs, and E-grade students who were capable of achieving Ds had been neglected.

"We intend to make available data formerly kept secret in the Department for Education," Mr Gibb wrote.

"For example, we want to show how well secondary schools educate those children who left primary school still struggling in the 3Rs.

"The new tables will have a column showing the proportion of such children who went on to achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C. We can then compare schools to see which are better at helping children who started from this low base."

Start Quote

It remains to be seen whether this will amount to real reform”

End Quote Stephen Twigg Shadow education secretary

The figures will also highlight how well a secondary school educates those students who joined them as high achievers and will show how well schools improve the chances of pupils who have come from poorer backgrounds, Mr Gibb said.

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "Labour introduced value added measures in league tables to measure how schools helped children improve, which the Tory government scrapped. It is good that they have changed their minds so we can measure the progress pupils make not just the raw exam results.

"Labour has been saying for some time that the Tory-led government needs to take stock of research evidence and advice from experts carefully and deal with coasting schools and poor teaching. Although today's news makes a good headline, it remains to be seen whether this will amount to real reform."

Last year the league tables were overhauled to show results in the English Baccalaureate - or EBacc - which records achievement in five core subjects.

Last year the government said it would consider the value of vocational qualifications in performance measures.

Known as equivalent qualifications, some of these count for as much as four or even six GCSEs. The government said there were "perverse incentives" for schools to offer them and thereby boost their league table position.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    169 Sorry Chazz but that's unmitigated rubbish. My guess is you don't know that many teachers but it doesn't stop you pontificating. Teachers have no problem with the public scrutiny, they are very used to checks and evaluations. What they object to is being told 'We'll judge you on narrow criteria and if you focus on those criteria we'll blame you for having too narrow a focus.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Typical bloody government - they set up league tables, they attack schools that don't do well in league tables, then when schools do get higher in the league tables they attack the schools for doing so!!
    The problem isn't with education, it's with politicians whose only knowledge of education is public school and with no understanding of how real schools work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    When will the Dept of Education realise that if you set up a system based on 'perverse incentives' they will get perverse teaching? This is a bit like the FA devising a system where the team which lets in the fewest goals in the season wins the league, and then complaining that teams are playing too defensively. It's idiotic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Why should teachers just shut up, when they are constantly subject to political interference, by people who have no background in education?
    Applying a new measure to a league table to expose schools who work the league table system is madness. The problem is with league tables itself, as the stakes to be high in these are ever higher; even more so with this government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Don't blame the schools and teachers it was the last lot of morons in government that increased checks/reliance on league tables etc to gauge how a school is doing. A good head teacher with good teachers onside would get the results required instead they are forced down the route of getting the RIGHT results by the wrong means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Qcumbor: Cart; horse. You want us to "shut up and do as we are told" even if that's what's damaging your child's education? And you would rather have "monitored performance" that means absolutely nothing, rather than your child genuinely educated? That's parental concern? I assume you'll dismiss teachers' views when a teacher tells you your child's brilliant too...

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    166 Shrimpina what a dreadful, unsupportive school. There's such snobbery at present if a child wishes to pursue a more vocational path - as if only accademia exists but it wasn't always so. Schools writing off a child because they don't fit the accademic mould is inexcusable.
    I hope your daughter has been able to make a success of her life since school, despite the teachers neglect of her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.


    Spoken with the confidence of the truly ignorant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Too many teachers have the "just give us the money and let us do what we want attitude" that is so often found in the public sector. If you are paid out of the public purse you will always, be subject to checks, balances and evaluations of how well taxpayers money is being spent.

    If teachers want "freedom" – they should join a hippy commune because they won't find it at school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I'm starting to see a bit of an anti-teacher agenda here from the government, rather than a pro-education.
    If you are going to measure a school's worth then surely the school will aim to improve in the area being measured?
    The government are introducing too many measures for a school, how can any parent work out an individual school's success?Is it EBacc?5 A*-C?5A*-C with Eng & Math?Value Added?

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    When will teachers shut up and just do as they are told in their job just like the rest of us. Always anti because they are always scared of having their performance monitored just like the rest of us.
    All us parents know that schools are far more concerned about themselves than our kids (playing to the league tables for example) that's why school can't and shouldn't be left to their own devices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    My daughter wanted to take a vocational path but this was blocked at every turn by her school. When it then became clear that her results were unlikely to reach the required A-C, they stopped taking any interest in her, and were pleased as punch when she left after Christmas.

    League Tables are a wholly useless way of judging how well a school is serving ALL its pupils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    all sounds very complicated!!! I left school in the seventies, a product of failing the 11 plus , I never achieved academic success. Imuddled thru life.gained a university degree. Whilst my "clever brother passed his 11 plus went to grammer school and he achieved a no better job than I did
    I some times wonder how those schools of the 70s would have faired
    modern tables systen were applied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Assessment requires honesty from the very *start* of a child's education.

    Education is damaged.

    Governments need to accept there are literacy problems. Allow teachers to assess *accurately* from minute one and measure a school's success solely on how they help that child progress from a realistic starting point. Most teachers care about the progress of their pupils. Let them get on with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    mathsman - measuring it retrospectively wouldn't be a problem. The wrong incentive is target-setting - especially if the targets are too high. If you are in any doubt about that, watch this:
    Many of my pupils, notably the older ones, tell me that targets are a nuisance, the meeting of which distracts them from working on their actual understanding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    153. Dr_John_B

    'Believe it or not the education system is supposed to be for the benefit of pupils, not to keep their teachers happy'

    And clearly pupils will do much better if their teachers are demoralised, denigrated and threatened. After all teachers aren't real people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    ...supposed to be for the benefit of pupils, not to keep their teachers happy

    Dr John B - as they saying goes, "First secure your own oxygen supply before helping others with theirs". How can frustrated, pressurised, demoralised and threatened teachers be good for their pupils? From my experience that is what we have right now. I am forced to spend much of my effort just covering my own back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    IJStock - I'm not convinced that measuring 'Value Add' is incentivising the wrong thing. It is what schools do to try to manipulate any measurement system (eg by giving extra help to pupils on the D/C boundary) that is at issue here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Unless any table compares like with like ( ie those passing difficult subjects and those passing easy ones - you cannot comare a C in Physics or History with a C in PE or Drama, or even worse with a " pass" some of the so-called equivalents) there is no point whatever in publishing them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    If the education of Children was a priority instead of constantly testing them the Schools would be world class.

    Children are spoon fed how to pass tests, not the actual subject matter, which is why there is a crisis in the employment of young people and the constant criticism from industry that young persons need to be taught the basics before they can be employed.


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