Exam league tables present a more serious problem this year for Broadgreen, a community comprehensive in Liverpool. Not only are the results poor, they are the worst so far.
Only 6.2 per cent of this year's fifth-formers managed five or more higher grade GCSEs. In 1993 the figure was 8.2 per cent, slightly worse than in 1992, the first year the tables were published, when it was 10 per cent.
The head, Ian Andain, insists the results are a reflection of the particular intakes, not an indicator of school performance.
This year, he says, the figures were affected because 16 of the year group did not take exams. They were not in school for several reasons; seven were long-term truants and others had been transferred to an educational guidance unit because of behaviour problems.
In addition, the school competes for girls with two neighbouring single-sex schools, Holly Lodge and West Derby. In this school, boys outperform girls, against the national trend.
To senior teachers, it is a source of irritation that the tables do not appear to credit efforts made to improve exam success. The school is well equipped; is a centre of excellence for the integration of children with specific disabilities (there are 15 pupils in wheelchairs) and the number on roll is rising.
"I feel the school provides significant added value. The ability range is skewed to the lower end. In the current year, we had four children who scored 115 and over - the reading score at 11 which the local authority judges should translate into five higher grade GCSEs at 16," he says. However, the school has a truancy problem with attendance rates running at about 80 per cent in the final two exam years. It may also be, says Mr Andain, that the school has to concentrate more on exam results.
Since the introduction of league tables, an "express class" has been created. The pupils are selected on the basis of the reading scores supplied by the local authority. The class is kept together for all lessons, not just core academic subjects.
The reason for the separation, says Mr Andain, is to maintain motivation. It is also a way of partly isolating pupils from an anti-achievement culture.
"We are committed to improving performance across the ability range, but this form of setting allows us to offer more differentiated work," he says.
The school believes that exam results are important, though according to Mr Andain, it is only a small minority of parents that take note of them.
The 1,300 pupils come either from the inner city or council estates on the outer ring of the city. He rails against the unfairness of league tables, but accepts that Broadgreen may have to putmore effort into improving its results.