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Pupil progress joins GCSE league tables

Student improvement is to be highlighted for the first time in new value-added data, reports Julie Henry

TEST results for 14-year-olds will be included in next week's GCSE league tables for the the first time, as well as a measure identifying which schools have pushed pupils beyond expectations.

The new "value-added" performance tables contain 24 columns of information and are twice the size of last year's.

They will show how pupils progressed between 11 and 14, using test results, and again from 14 to 16, using GCSE results. In theory, this should improve the standing of secondaries with poor raw scores but which are actually making considerable progress. It should also expose schools with apparently good exam results that may be coasting. Schools which managed the expected level of improvement, given pupils' previous results, will score 100. Measures above 100 represent schools where pupils made more progress. Scores below that show where less progress has been made.

Heads and teachers unions have long been in favour of value-added. But while it may even up the playing field, parents are unlikely to pore over the new statistics. Instead, the Government is more likely to employ the measures as a way of proving that its school diversity policy is working. According to research by the Technology Colleges Trust, specialist schools add more value than comprehensives.

But not all heads have welcomed the new-look tables. High-performing schools claim it is harder to make big leaps when your pupils are achieving top results at every point in their school career.

Professor Harvey Goldstein of London University Institute of Education described value-added measures as meaningless because of the uncertainties caused by pupils' mobility.

While Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector of schools, has said that value-added is much needed, he has also warned that it could be too simplistic, masking differences between schools.

The worth of value-added is dependent on the validity of the test and GCSE results. Some secondary schools argue that key stage 2 scores are an inaccurate measure of a pupil's real ability because primary teachers are experts at teaching children to scrape through.

Professor Dylan Wiliam, of King's College, London University, estimates that as many as 200,000 11-year-olds are wrongly graded each year. And the margin of error at GCSE could be a grade above or below what the teenager is actually awarded.

The publication of A-level information has been delayed because of the A-level regrading exercise last year. A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said no date had yet been set.

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