Education & Family

Schools minister cracks down on league table 'incentives'

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

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."

Image caption 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."

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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