Long school day reaps rewards

29th February 2008 at 00:00
Academy tops KS3 value added results, but academic says schools add relatively little value

A longer teaching week and extra homework for underachieving pupils have helped an academy reach the top of a national performance league table.

Mossbourne Community Academy in east London came first in a ranking of 3,063 secondaries based on pupils' key stage 3 progress.

It was one of the star performers in the 2007 KS3 league tables, which confirmed that national test results for English, maths and science remain broadly unchanged compared with 2006.

Mossbourne, built on the site of the troubled Hackney Downs comprehensive, achieved a contextual value added score of 104.2. This means that its 14-year-olds have made four terms' more progress than others who achieved similar results when they were all tested at the age of 11.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head, said the score was a result of high expectations and of monitoring pupils' performance every week, with extra homework for those lagging behind. The school also teaches a 30-hour week, five hours above the national norm.

"Hackney primaries are bottom of the national league tables, so it is really good that a secondary here is bucking that trend," he said.

The news came as the West London Academy in Ealing was named joint most improved school in England, out of those whose scores had risen over the past three years.

But academies were not uniformly successful. Mossbourne was the only one in the top 100 for value added scores.

Overall, 23 of the 44 academies listed in the tables had value added scores above the national average, while 18 were below it.

Despite Mossbourne's success, an academic has questioned both the value added measure and the Government's entire strategy for differentiating school performance.

Professor Stephen Gorard, of Birmingham University, said that decades of research showed schools made relatively little difference to pupils' exam results. Far more important were personal characteristics such as pupils' prior attainment and their parents' backgrounds. Yet schools, he said, were being labelled as successes or failures on the basis of small differences in performance.

He added that it was "immoral" that teachers and schools were being judged on a measure that virtually no one understood and when no one could be sure that the numbers generated had any meaning.

Three schools recorded the best possible "raw scores" performance in the tables, all of their pupils achieving at least level six in all three tests. They were Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb, north London; King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, Essex; and Newport Girls' High in Shropshire.

Parkside Community College in Plymouth was the lowest-performing school overall on raw results. But it was among the top 150 on value added scores for KS2 to 4.

TOP FIVE SCHOOLS

The best-performing academies, when measured by the contextual value-added formula, are:

Mossbourne Community Academy, Hackney, east London: 104.2

Gartree High, Leicester: 103.0

Belvoir High, Nottingham: 102.9

Sacred Heart Secondary, Southwark, south London: 102.7

Challney High for Girls, Luton: 102.6

Rated by improvement from key stage 2 to 3, where each unit above 100 represents a term's additional progress.

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