Schools critical of new exam table measure

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HEADTEACHERS in the region have given a mixed verdict on a new grading measure, following the release of national league tables this week.

Many schools were celebrating a strong performance by GCSE and A-level students but expressed concern about the new English baccalaureate.

An average of just 13.6 per cent of pupils in Suffolk passed the new measure, which recognises students who achieve grades A* to C in English, maths, two sciences, a foreign language and either history or geography.

Figures for the grading system have been released for pupils who took exams before it was announced.

The national pass average for the measure was 15.6 per cent.

Hugh O’Neill, of St Benedict’s Catholic School, in Bury St Edmunds, has written to the Education Secretary Michael Gove about the issue.

He said: “We realised in December that our history and geography results would count for nothing under Mr Gove’s measure.

“Over two thirds of our students take two GCSE short courses in history and geography. Under the new method, the short courses are not counted.

“I share the anger expressed by many colleagues nationally about this unprecedented moving of the goal posts.”

He added that students were ‘continuing to flourish and succeed’ despite the difficulties of reorganising Catholic education into a two tier system.

Geoff Barton, of King Edward VI School, in Bury, was pleased with the league table results.

He said: “They confirm once again we’re doing very well against Suffolk and national averages, particularly post-16.

“They’re a tribute to the great work of our middle school partners.”

However, Mr Barton hit out at the way the English baccalaureate was introduced.

He said: “To introduce that this year without telling schools we were going to be measured against it is really pretty spiteful.

“If you take the idea of the humanities, it seems to be saying that unless you do history and geography then other humanities subjects don’t count.

“There’s a kind of snobbery in that.”

Susan Byles, of Mildenhall College of Technology, was also ‘very pleased’ with the percentage of pupils achieving five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths.

She took issue with the results for the new measure.

Ms Byles said: “It’s really quite ridiculous to be publishing any kind measure for something that schools weren’t being asked to compare in the first place.

“To do that now is rather ridiculous and therfore meaningless.

“They’re doing this deliberately to try to make it look better from this point forward. The figures will probably be at their lowest now because schools haven’t been required to push children into humanities or modern foreign languages if they wanted to study other courses.”

She added: “League tables only ever tell half the picture because they don’t tell you what the children’s starting points were.”

But Vicky Neale, of County Upper School, in Bury, said the results for the baccalaureate had to be ‘kept in perspective’.

She said: “The actual figure doesn’t actually surprise me. If you went back to the O-level days, you would have expected less than 20 per cent anyway.”

Mrs Neale added: “I am delighted with our results again this year. They reflect a highly effective partnership between our students, their parents and our staff who work incredibly hard to do the best by every child.”

West Suffolk College was ranked top among all the further education colleges in Suffolk.

Principal Dr Ann Williams said: “We hope that this data about our performance at advanced level will be helpful to potential students in making decisions about their future.

“West Suffolk College achieved the highest of the further education colleges in Suffolk and is ranked fourth in the Eastern region.”