League tables and school inspections accused of blighting prospects of less academic pupils. Sue Learner reports
SCHOOL inspections and league tables have had a detrimental effect on pupils' GCSE performance, according to the Secondary Heads Association.
From 1987 to 1993, the percentage of pupils achieving five A* to C grades at GCSE dramatically improved. After this period the rate of improvement slowed down.
Tony Neal, the association's president, links the change to the creation of school league tables in 1992 and the Office for Standards in Education in 1993.
He said: "The Government's belief that high-profile accountability speeds pupil improvement is not borne out by the facts. The results picture is quite remarkable. Schools are valuing high-ability pupils as they are the ones bringing home the bacon."
Current national policies set schools against each other, he said. The long-term winners in this competitive environment are those schools who attract the most able and most motivated pupils. Consequently the less able and less motivated pupils are less valued.
To combat this, SHA is calling for "educational inclusion" and claims the Government is not doing enough to value all young people.
Heads believe that the Government is focusing only on certain schools and certain parts of the country.
John Dunford, the general secretary of SHA, said: "There are lots of incentives for schools to exclude but very few to include. The five A* to C GCSEs creates perverse incentives and the Government should abandon that. Some schools in the most challenging circumstances with low GCSEs are ones the Government should be most proud of."
To help promote "educational inclusion" SHA is calling for:
* statistics to be kept on the percentage of secondary school pupils being educated in their local school.
* national targets to be set and incentives to be offered to schools to provide places for local children.
* a limit to be put on the number of permanently excluded pupils allowed in a single year group in a school. Some schools have 10 to 15 per cent in a single year group * a valid system of value-added analysis to be used where school effectiveness is measured and reported.
* funding should not merely confined to schools in deprived areas but based on disadvantage measured by pupils' prior attainment.