Raw scores, raw deal

6th December 2002 at 00:00
Will the Government's new value-added scores be fairer to hard-working teachers? Helen Ward reports

NEW scores that show how schools help pupils progress have led to dramatic changes in their league-table positions.

In a pilot project that ranked 495 primaries, the 50 with the highest "value-added " measures included 21 which did not make the top 50 when ranked by raw scores. Four schools leapt more than 200 places to be ranked among the top 40.

The project, which also looked at 10 special schools, compared children's test scores at 11 with their scores at seven.

The resulting scores - which will be calculated for all 14,643 English primary schools next year and published alongside raw scores - were presented as a measure with a standard score of 100.

Measures above 100 represent schools where pupils made more progress than the national average; measures below 100 represent those where pupils made less progress.

The four that leapt more than 200 places to be among the top 40 for pupil progress were: St Vincent's Catholic primary in Dagenham, east London (see case study, below right); Allen Edwards primary in Lambeth, south London; Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic primary, Leigh, Lancashire; and St Stephen's Church of England, Bury, Lancashire .

Schools will be graded according to their value-added scores. A school in the top 5 per cent nationally will get an A, the next 20 per cent B, the middle 50 per cent C, the next 20 per cent D and the lowest five per cent E.

But there are fears that low grades could stigmatise schools. Professor Peter Tymms, of Durham University, said: "I think value-added measures are important, but I question whether they should be made public. For example, schools which are ranked D will still have made progress. And even if every school is brilliant there will still be some which are ranked as Es."

Nationally, the number of schools getting a perfect score in key stage 2 tests - when all their pupils reach level 4 in English, maths and science - has dropped by one, from 179 last year to 178 in 2002.

Henleaze junior in Bristol has the biggest year group with a perfect score: all 97 pupils got level 4 in the three subjects. South Farnham community junior in Surrey, which got the largest clean sweep last year, missed out by just one percentage point - 99 per cent of its 124-strong cohort achieved level 4 in English while all made the grade in maths and science.

The 11 pupils who took the key stage 2 tests at Urchfont Church of England school, Devizes, achieved the highest average point score of 32.8. The point score for a level 5 is 33.

The most improved school in England was St Barnabas in Manchester, which came out of special measures in 2001 (see below).

Bottom of the table was South Borough primary in Maidstone, Kent, which had its results quashed because of irregularities in the scripts. Hothfield village primary, Ashford, Kent, had the second lowest results. Hothfield head Liz Akhurst said that the 15 children who were eligible to take the tests last year had been affected by a turnover of staff while they were in Years 2, 3 and 4. She added: "Nine of the children were on the register of special educational needs. In English, only seven children took the test and when you are talking in percentage terms about that number of children it is slightly ridiculous."

Richmond-upon-Thames was the most successful education authority, after the City of London, which has ony one school, and the Isles of Scilly, which has four.

The bottom authority was Sandwell, which was 13th from bottom last year.

Unions have called for value-added scores as a fairer system.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said: "In the ideal world there would not be any performance tables. But if the Government is hell-bent on continuing with performance tables, then value-added has to be a much better benchmark than raw results."

For more details of KS2 tables see www.dfes.gov.ukstatistics.

Comments are invited on the value-added pilot by January 16, see www.dfes.gov.ukperformancetables

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