London schools will do best under a new system of government targets, unless secondaries outside the capital start to raise their game, an official analysis of exam results suggests.
Ministers announced a new system of secondary accountability, which will see the end of the five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths measure, yesterday.
Instead government “floor standards” – which can see schools closed if they are missed – will be set according to a new measure of the average progress pupils achieve across eight different subjects.
Tim Leunig, an advisor to schools minister David Laws, has told heads that he is confident that the new system will cure schools of “five-C-itis” – an excessive emphasis on relatively small numbers of borderline C/D grade pupils.
He said this would be a particular help to pupils outside London, where schools were more prone to the “disease”.
“When we sit in the DfE [Department for Education] and we chonk the numbers what we find is that when you move away from 5 Cs [as a performance measure] regions outside London fall, relative to London, quite dramatically,” Mr Leunig (pictured) told an Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference last month.
“London schools are less prone to five-C-itis than non London schools. It is one of the really strong aspects of London schools.”
Brian Lightman, general secretary of heads' union ASCL, said London schools had “improved a great deal” because they had benefited from some “very high profile, well resourced, school improvement initiatives”. He said wanted those outside the capital to be given similar support.
According to Mr Laws the new measure would mean around twice as many secondary schools falling below the floor standard, compared to the existing 195, if it were introduced today.
But the new target and league table regime will not be applied to GCSE results until 2016, giving schools more than two years to prepare.
Mr Leunig suggested that one way would be for them to switch to the academic GCSEs that qualify for the English Baccalaureate (EBac) indicator.
The new eight subject progress measure will require three EBac subjects in addition to English and maths –sciences, languages, or history or geography would all qualify.
“When we look which schools are doing badly on the progress eight measure they are overwhelmingly schools who, conditional on their intake, are not taking many conventional GCSEs,” Mr Leunig said.
“So everybody basically takes English and maths but even when you look at kids who are taking eight there is a whole bunch of schools who have an awful lot of five A*-C candidates who are not in fact taking any three EBac subects.
“It surprised us how few kids with really good key stage 2 results were getting anywhere near filling that block.”
Meanwhile ASCL has written to Mr Gove to complain about his latest changes to the current accountability system. A crackdown on early GCSE entry – announced last month – will mean that pupils’ first efforts, rather than their best, will count towards school league table scores.
The Association is angered that the change was applied immediately without any notice and says the decision has “severely eroded” its confidence in the education secretary.
“Our members are affronted at your suggestion that there is widespread ‘gaming’ in the system. We do not believe this is fair or indeed accurate and we would ask you to share the evidence you used to reach your fundamentally important policy decision,” Mr Lightman writes.
“We would urge you not to under-estimate the seriousness of this issue or the strength of feeling about it among school leaders.”
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