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Grammar schools top new value-added league

Grammar schools dominate the first "value-added" league table of English secondaries' key stage 3 test results - adding to the controversy surrounding the rankings.

For the first time, the Government has published tables for 14-year-olds' results, despite opposition from the teacher unions and National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations.

The move contrasts with decisions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to scrap or put less emphasis on testing and tables and comes amid continuing controversy about test data reliability.

Grammars came out on top not only, as expected, in terms of raw results but also in terms of the progress made by pupils between 11 and 14. Grammars filled 44 of the top 49 schools ranked by "value-added".

Top on this measure was Skegness grammar, in Lincolnshire, where pupils had made four terms' more progress than expected. Andrew Rigby, the head, said the "value-added" tables undermined claims grammars would do poorly on this measure.

But Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the results may reflect the fact that grammars teach more motivated students. He said: "League tables do very little to enhance our understanding of what's going on in schools."

Wycombe high school, in Buckinghamshire, topped the raw score table. All 209 of its pupils scored level 5 in English, maths and science, the expected standard for 14-year-olds.

There was also embarrassment for the Government as a "leading edge" secondary, Swanlea school, in east London, came in the bottom 20 nationally on the value-added measure.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, described the new tables as an "unnecessary irrelevance", because test results were not nearly as important to youngsters as GCSE and A-level grades.

In response, the Department for Education and Skills pointed to a 2002 study by the National Foundation for Educational Research showing that "the most able pupils make more progress in comprehensive schools".

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