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A comprehensive win

Just three of the top hundred secondaries in the new value-added league are selective, report Warwick Mansell and George Wright

Opponents of selective education were celebrating this week after comprehensives outperformed grammar schools in new "value-added" tables of achievement beween the ages of 14 and 16.

Only three grammars featured in the top 100 secondaries ranked according to progress made by pupils during key stage 4.

The results contrast vividly with the key stage 3 league tables, published last month, which ranked schools by pupils' progress from 11 to 14. In those, grammars filled 44 of the top 49 places - and dominated national media coverage.

David Chaytor, a Labour backbench MP and leading comprehensive campaigner, said: "The stunning performance of our leading comprehensive schools should be the final nail in the coffin of the case for selective secondary education."

Value-added measures attempt to gauge how much a school improves a pupil's performance. They compare a pupil's results with those of children across the country who start out with similar ability levels.

It is still difficult, though, to get a complete view of a secondary school's contribution to a pupil's education throughout the years running up to GCSE as there is not yet a national 11-16 value-added measure.

The Government has attempted to move towards this with a measure based on a smaller number of schools. It has produced a separate list of the 133 secondaries with the best value-added scores at key stage 3, and then ranked them by how much extra value they add during key stage 4.

Again, comprehensives appear to do well on this measure. David Miliband, the schools minister, pointed out that they filled 97 of the top 133 places.

However, supporters of selection by ability will also point out that 27 of the 133 were grammar schools. As grammars account for just 166 of the country's 3,700 secondaries, this is a strong representation.

Leading this table was Lordswood girls' school, Birmingham, where Jane Hattatt, the head, described the result as a vote of confidence in comprehensive education.

Sir John Cass school, in Stepney, east London, had the highest value-added score overall at key stage 4. It also was the country's most improved secondary. Skegness grammar in Lincolnshire topped the KS3 value-added table.

Fir Vale school, Sheffield, which was forced to close and re-open only five years ago under the Government's controversial Fresh Start policy had the country's seventh best value-added score at key stage 4.

Thomas Telford school, the city technology college in Telford, Shropshire, again had the best results among comprehensives in the traditional, non-value-added tables. For the fourth year running, all of its pupils achieved the benchmark five or more GCSEs at C or better (or equivalent).

This year all got at least nine passes at C or better.

But the tables were again denounced by some of those near the bottom, many of which are already lined up for closure.

Ramsgate school in Kent finished bottom: just 4 per cent of its pupils achieved five or more passes at A* to C.

Carol Dibbs, the new executive headteacher at High View school in Derby which came equal second from bottom on a score of 7 per cent, said the tables were a "kick in the teeth" for staff who had worked hard to take the school out of special measures.


Type of school Age 11-14 value-added measure 2003 Age 14-16 value-added measure 2003 Rank based on 14-16 VA measure 2003

Lordswood girls' school Birmingham COMP GIRLS 102.6 107 1

St Philomena's school London COMP GIRLS 101.7 107 2

Hasmonean high school London COMP MIXED 101.5 106.6 3

Norbury Manor high London COMP GIRLS 102.1 106.1 4

Walthamstow school for girls London COMP GIRLS 101 106 5

Dixons city technology college Bradford COMP MIXED 101.6 105.5 6

The Tiffin girls' school Kingston u Thames SEL GIRLS 103.3 105.2 7

St Benedict's RC high Warwickshire MOD MIXED 101 105.2 7

Grange technology college Bradford COMP MIXED 101.3 105 9

The Latymer school London SEL MIXED 102.6 104.6 10


% point increase of schools' GCSEGNVQ results 2000-3 based on % of 15-year-olds gaining

5-plus A* to C or GNVQ equivalent. Only secondary schools with 30 or more pupils aged 15 in 2003

Type of school 2000 2003 % point rise 2000-3

Sir John Cass school Tower Hamlets COMP MIXED 32% 79% +47

All Saints Catholic school Barking amp; Dag COMP MIXED 45% 89% +44

Guru Nanak Sikh school London COMP MIXED 44% 87% +43

Jaamiatul Imaam Bradford NONSEL GIRLS 19% 58% +39

Muhammad Zakaria school IND

Turves Green boys' school Birmingham COMP BOYS 21% 59% +38

Brownhills high school Stoke-on-Trent COMP MIXED 9% 46% +37

Waverley school Birmingham COMP MIXED 14% 51% +37

Archbishop Holgate's school York COMP MIXED 39% 75% +36

Croxteth community school Liverpool COMP MIXED 11% 47% +36

Kingsmeadow school Gateshead COMP MIXED 15% 50% +35

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