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Boards ditched for sake of ranking

Malet Lambert school, Hull, is a 1,200-pupil 11-16 comprehensive which gained 50 per cent A-Cs in GCSEs last summer, a result which gave it a long lead in the city's performance league table.

The results have been effective. The school now has a waiting list of more than 110 pupils and has been able to recruit three more members of staff.

Anxious to stay on the crest of the wave, Paul Tempest, the school's director of studies, has asked staff to analyse the new GCSE syllabuses and change if necessary.

Out of the 11 subjects taught in the school six departments are staying with NEAB, "the old home board". Five departments, however, are going over to different boards, representing an unprecedented level of change and indicative of the level of scrutiny taking place in many schools.

The changes and the reasons for them are: * Physical education: from the NEAB to the MEG. Staff felt NEAB coursework was too difficult for lower-ability pupils, 10 of whom were not taking the exam this year because they had failed to get the coursework project in on time.

* Music: from the NEAB to the MEG due to greater flexibility on pupil assessment.

* English: from the SEG to the NEAB because of "easier books" and an "easier syllabus" and a free anthology for every pupil.

* Maths: from the MEG to the SEG. "Better for all grades" and "easier board". Major factor was the way the two boards arranged tiering. In MEG's intermediate paper candidates could only get up to a grade C. With SEG they could get up to a B. "That means," said Mr Tempest, "that on the MEG intermediate paper they only have to slip one point and they are down to a D and A-Cs are all important. It also means there is less pressure on staff to make an early choice of how to tier a candidate."

* History: MEG modern world to London Examinations' British, social and economic history which included the history of pop music as one of its components. "Staff perceived this would be very attractive to our pupils, " Mr Tempest said. The London Examinations homeline and faxback services were also influential. "We tested these out," Mr Tempest said, "and they worked."

"Results are the be-all-and-end-all," he said, "if we can play the system and it helps our children, then we will do it."

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