Outstanding grammar faces a label it considers 'grossly unfair'

27th April 2007 at 01:00
The Ofsted report for St Ambrose College, a Catholic grammar school in Altrincham, Cheshire, is littered with words such as "outstanding" and "excellent": 92 per cent of its pupils achieved five good GCSEs last year, writes Jonathan Milne.

This year, however, it could easily be one of the "coasting" schools and subject to additional inspections, interventions and radical government solutions. Michael Thompson (above), the headteacher, had two words for that: "grossly unfair".

On contextual value added (CVA) data, the most important criterion to be used by councils in deciding whether to intervene, St Ambrose ranks, astonishingly, as among England's worst 300 secondaries. The measure judges pupils' performance against their prior attainment and those of pupils from similar backgrounds. Mr Thompson said that showed the failing of the CVA measure.

The school is in a wealthy area of Cheshire and so its pupils are expected to get some of the best grades in England. However, it actually takes in many poorer pupils from a 25-mile catchment area, a fact not acknowledged in the measure.

Mr Thompson said: "The whole concept of CVA is to move low achieving schools statistically upward and high achieving schools statistically downward. Until the two meet in the middle, the DfES will continue to find flawed statistical measures to impose."

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