Fast-track ECDL IT qualification dropped from league tables after 'gaming' fears

Schools may have to change GCSE option choices in the light of the new guidance, heads' union says

Eleanor Busby

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A controversial fast-track IT qualification will no longer count in the GCSE performance tables, new guidance suggests.

The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) – which currently counts as an equivalent to a two-year GCSE – has not been included in the list of  technical qualifications to be recognised by the government in the 2019 performance tables.

It follows concerns that schools have been “gaming” league tables by entering entire cohorts for certain qualifications, like the ECDL, in order to maximise their scores under Progress 8 – the government’s performance measure which came into effect for the first time this year.

Last year, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national education director, told TES that schools could find themselves marked down on crucial pupil outcomes and leadership judgments if they submitted students for qualifications solely to improve their Progress 8 scores. 

Critics have claimed that the BCS level 2 ECDL certificate in IT application skills can be taught in as little as three days, making it much easier to obtain than two-year GCSE courses. 

Exams watchdog Ofqual has been looking into the teaching time assigned to the qualification after Ofsted raised concerns. 

The latest statistics from the exams watchdog show that the number of ECDL certificates awarded last year surged by 123 per cent after the qualification was listed in performance tables for 2018.

In total, 122,950 ECDL certificates were awarded over the 12 months ending September 2016, compared with 55,150 certificates over the same period in 2015. 

'We shouldn't be getting this data so late'

Normally schools are told which qualifications will be included in performance tables before the new year, to provide them with plenty of time to finalise their curriculum offering, heads have said.  

But now, following today's guidance, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has said a number of schools may have to revisit their options for students due to take their GCSEs in summer 2019. 

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the ASCL, said: "Some schools may have to go back and ask young people to adjust their option choices. 

"The department should ensure that this data is available to schools before the Christmas holiday. It should not be coming out in February."

On the changes revealed today, he added: "We know there has been a range of qualifications that have been taught on significantly less hours then the standard GCSE.

"We understand that the study [from Ofqual] has led to a number of qualifications being not included on the list. But it doesn't mean that the qualifications are not without value."

A DfE spokesperson said: “The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)  will not be included in the 2019 school and college performance tables. 

“We want pupils to choose qualifications that are in their best interests and help them reach their full potential. We conducted a comprehensive review of the ECDL qualification, which concluded that it does not demonstrate the characteristics of a Technical Award.”  

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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