‘Flawed’ league tables criticised by heads

HOR 130511 Launch of the Horsham 100 campaign at Tanbridge House School. Jules White (Tanbridge headteacher). photo by derek martin
HOR 130511 Launch of the Horsham 100 campaign at Tanbridge House School. Jules White (Tanbridge headteacher). photo by derek martin

The majority of secondary schools in the Horsham district improved on the percentage of pupils achieving five or more A* to C GCSEs in 2013 compared to the previous year, according to school league tables.

But while staff are celebrating, a number of headteachers have criticised the ‘flawed’ performance figures released last week by the Department for Education.

Steyning Grammar School saw the highest percentage increase of pupils achieving five or more A* to C GCSE grades across the district from 60 to 73.

Towers Convent School in Upper Beeding climbed seven per cent with 100 per cent of pupils attaining five or more GCSEs between A* to C including English and Maths.

The Forest School in Horsham increased six per cent from 62 to 68.

Tanbridge House School is up four per cent from 77 to 81.

There was no change at Farlington School in Horsham where 82 per cent of pupils scored five or more A* to C GCSE grades.

The percentage at Millais school in Horsham and The Weald in Billingshurst dropped slightly compared to last year.

This week Jules White, headteacher at Tanbridge House School, which has been named as one of England’s top 100 schools for sustained improvement in GCSE performance, said schools should be judged on a far wider range of criteria.

He told the County Times: “Recently published national GCSE data confirms Tanbridge House School’s place as a very high performing school.

“Most importantly, our progress or ‘value added’ measure is regarded as ‘significantly positive’ at 2013.

“I have always made it clear, however, that league tables are flawed and schools should be judged on a far wider range of criteria of which care, guidance, positive student conduct and extra-curricular provision are pre-eminent.”

His views were echoed by other headteachers.

Siobhan Denning, of The Forest School, said: “It is pleasing to see The Forest School maintain our high ranking on so many of the indicators and the comparison with other all boys’ schools is especially relevant to us. However, it is important to make the point that these performance tables are extremely flawed.

“It it is very difficult to make any real and valid judgements from them as to how good a school is as they do not take into account the wider aspects of school life.”

Peter Woodman, headteacher at The Weald, said: “The recent publication of the school league tables shows The Weald is an excellent place to study. Both attainment in terms of raw results and achievement in terms of value added, are excellent at both GCSE and A Level. The tables show that students across the whole ability range are making excellent progress.

“Having said this, it is important that parents and the wider community appreciate that such data only provides a part of the picture that is a school.

“Such data allows parents to ask the right questions. It should always be viewed in conjunction with a school’s Ofsted report and what parents and students actually think of a school.”

He continued: “Schools deal with children and individuals and the best way to get a good sense of this is to visit the school and speak to the students who attend it.

“Outstanding schools provide more than just a good set of exam results. They provide the wider experiences and education that allows young people to develop the skills to work with others and develop resilience and independence that are key to their future success in life. This aspect of a school can never be reflected in any league table.”

The headteacher at Farlington, Louise Higson, said league tables ‘should be treated with a degree of caution’.

She said: “They may be useful as a guide, but on their own they aren’t an accurate measure of the quality, character or ethos of a school.

“At Farlington we place an emphasis on an all-round education; excellent academic results in addition to a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities.

“The league tables fail to capture the wider education we give to each individual or the contribution we make to their social and personal development.”

Ms Higson added: “To obtain a true picture of a school, and know whether it is the right place for your son or daughter, you need to experience it first-hand. Go and visit, take a tour, talk to the students and the teachers.”

Towers headteacher Clare Trelfa said: “We are overjoyed with our league table position but consider academic prowess to be only one aspect of life at the Towers.

“The staff and girls knew the 2013 results were phenomenal and a source of great pride but to move up the tables too is such a bonus! All our successes are due to the Sisters of The Blessed Sacrament, our dynamic, hard-working and committed staff, our motivated, diligent pupils and the support of their families.

“Our thanks and best wishes also go to Mrs Carole Baker, our previous Headmistress whose leadership led to such tremendous achievements.”