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Inspectors proved wrong

The position of Lordswood girls' school at the top of the value-added table is a vote of confidence in comprehensive education and a victory for the "common man", according to Jane Hattatt, its head.

The school, which serves some of the tougher areas of Birmingham and Sandwell, has a quarter of pupils on free meals and 75 per cent from ethnic minorities.

Such success, said Mrs Hattatt, is "banner-waving for schools like ours that work in challenging circumstances and are often undervalued".

She said: "This means an unbelievable amount to the school. It is a reminder of what we can achieve given a level playing field - which is what the value-added tables offer.

"Our pupils can at last say they've come top of something, as opposed to always being behind grammar schools. This result should restore faith in a comprehensive system I've always believed in."

The publication of the table also counters the blow the school received this week from the Office for Standards in Education, which dropped its rating from outstanding to good.

Mrs Hattatt said the inspectors were out of touch and ill-equipped to judge the difference between attainment and achievement. They had also failed to grasp the new inspection framework.

The value-added league tables, by contrast, were a vindication of the way the school works. It has introduced university-style seminars where pupils can talk to their tutors about any school-related matter, from careers advice to difficulties with maths homework.

The meetings are minuted so progress and ongoing issues can be monitored by all staff.

Combined with a vigorous assessment regime and challenging targets for all pupils, this review system has enabled students to make steady progress.

Progress which, according to Mrs Hattatt, is reflected in the school's outstanding value-added score.

She said: "These tables are a much fairer way of judging how well a school is working. The value-added measure shows what we have really achieved by measuring the difference between how the child comes to us and how they go out.

"I couldn't care tuppence for what the inspectors said - and I care even less now."

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