Labour league tables would scrap 'five good GCSEs' measure

15th July 2011 at 01:00
Burnham wants emphasis on how schools help individual pupils

Labour would consider a radical overhaul of league tables if it returned to power, scrapping the existing measure of five good GCSE grades, including English and maths.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said this week that he wanted to "move away" from the current threshold target for schools as it focused attention on pupils at the CD borderline.

Mr Burnham was presenting the initial findings of his Labour education policy review, which claimed the Coalition had placed schools in a "vice-like grip" by introducing the English Baccalaureate as well as raising the five A*-to-C floor target.

The former health secretary said he wanted to introduce a measure that placed more emphasis on a pupil's progress, pushing every student to "be the best that they can be".

"Labour's policy review is looking at whether it is possible to reform league tables so that schools are judged by the difference they make with each individual learner," Mr Burnham told the think tank Demos.

"We will now do further work on developing a single measure - using CVA or VA as a starting point - that is well understood, trusted by parents and supported by the profession."

He added: "If we get it right, it could align the political imperative to measure how schools are doing with professional vocation of teachers to make a difference for every child."

Matt Grist, senior researcher at Demos, said he broadly backed the idea but added that developing a simple measure for contextual value added could prove difficult.

"I support the idea of introducing something that is more value added, but it has to be communicable to the public if it is going to work," Mr Grist said.

"I think everyone realises that when you start school you begin your own personal journey, and the best measure would be to show how schools do with every child, not just those on the CD borderline - one which stretches all students."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: "At the moment there is too much talk about league tables and far too little about teaching and learning, and the purpose of education."

Mr Burnham also outlined proposals to introduce a Ucas-style system for vocational students hoping to find an apprenticeship, as well as plans to offer after school classes for the "very brightest" 14-year-olds in schools across a local authority area to better prepare them for the path to a Russell Group university or Oxbridge.

But a Government source said Labour failed the most disadvantaged pupils when in power: "Under Labour the poorest children went backwards, millions were pushed into courses of little or no worth and we fell behind other nations. Burnham and Labour refuse to face up to the reality of their legacy," the source said.

"The fact is that we have to restore rigour to our exams system and ensure more children do qualifications that are of real value - otherwise we'll drop even further behind the Chinese."

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