BBC News

School criticised for publicly ranking GCSE pupils

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

image copyrightChris Radburn
image captionThe pupils were ranked just before the exams started

A school which publicly ranked its GCSE students on academic ability just days before the start of the exam season has been criticised by parents.

Ashington High School and Sports College wanted pupils to know their relative ability before the exams.

More than 40 parents complained, saying the ranking system had knocked pupils' confidence as they prepared for exams.

The Northumberland school said it used innovative strategies like transparent communication to boost results.

'Low on confidence'

The ranking focused on the school's 261 Year-11 GCSE students.

The school was placed in special measures in February and has been working with the Partners in Excellence Club - a non-profit group which helps schools improve performance.

Sandra Purvis, whose 15-year-old daughter is a pupil at the school, runs an online parent support group.

She told the Newcastle-based Chronicle: "It's absolutely horrendous the way they've done it."

It is reported that the pupils were taken to a group-learning classroom where they saw their names and photos displayed on a wall with how they ranked based on academic performance.

Ms Purvis said: "These kids are under enough pressure to start with. Some of them have got 36 exams coming up and I would like to know what the school has in place for these children who have undoubtedly suffered as a result of this.

"It's not going to help the less academic children who are probably already low on confidence. By launching this only last week the school hasn't given these children enough time to improve their performance. All it has done is wreck their confidence," she added.

Ability levels

Another parent said she understood that the school would have introduced this strategy in the best interests of the pupils, but added: "They've got their exams coming up and they've now got the added pressure of potentially being labelled thick or a swot by their friends."

A spokesman for Ashington High said the focus was on raising standards for all pupils across all subjects.

He said: "We combine traditional teaching methods with innovative practices that have proved successful elsewhere.

"We have recently been working with The PiXL (Partners in Excellence) Club in order to support our work in achieving improvement across the school.

"When we looked at how we could achieve an improvement in our own numbers, we felt we could not ignore that which has been achieved by schools working with PiXL.

"Indeed, we are confident that we will see an improvement in our own academic results this summer.

"One of the strategies PiXL has introduced has focused on transparent communication with students ensuring they are aware of their relative-ability levels prior to entering examinations.

"The intention is then to provide whatever support or resource each individual student requires in order to achieve improvement.

"We understand this is an innovative approach and may not be something parents experienced for themselves in school."

Related Topics

  • Exams
  • Secondary education