Each January the Department for Education produces school performance tables that attempt to measure academic achievement. Putting aside the important point that there is much more to school performance than just public exam results, the tables don’t even provide an accurate measure of academic attainment.
For years The Perse, despite being placed in the top schools nationally for public exam results, finished last in the Cambridgeshire performance table because the Department for Education did not recognise the International GCSEs our pupils sat, even though they were welcomed by universities and employers. We wore our ‘nul points’ as a badge of honour and evidence that we put the educational needs of our students above Government ‘bean counting’.
International GCSEs are now partly recognised in the Government performance tables, but other bona fide qualifications are not. Onlookers may be surprised to see that at The Perse (placed in the top 10 schools nationally by the Daily Telegraph and The Times for A level results) only 49% of the Upper Sixth achieved 3 A levels at AAB. I was too. The explanation is that only some subjects including Maths, Geography and Modern Languages are deemed worthy of inclusion in this data point, but many others including Politics, Economics, Philosophy, Art and Design and Religious Studies are not.
There is a further problem with the A level data, this time with qualification recognition. Just as IGCSEs were originally discounted by the Government, now the achievements of students who take the demanding Pre-U qualification, for which the top grade is in excess of A* at A level, are also excluded from some measures.
There also seems to be confusion with the GCSE EBACC results. For example the IGCSE Edexcel Modern Foreign Languages qualifications do not count whilst the identical Edexcel Modern Foreign Languages level 2 certificate qualifications do.
In principle I support the publication of schools performance data as this increases institutional accountability and helps parents make informed choices. Unfortunately these performance tables do not deliver, and parents would be better advised to look at the detailed breakdown on our own website or the range of tables produce by the national newspapers – remembering at the same time that there is more to success than just exam results.