Statistics have wrecked results

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
I write to express my frustration at being thwarted by statistics at this time of annual scrutiny of GCSE results. Our previous best results had been 50 per cent with at least five A*-C GCSE grades two years ago. After a successful Estyn inspection and with an able, though small, Year 11 group (83 pupils), I felt sure we would improve on this.

First analysis showed we had: 42 pupils with five A*-Cs made it 51 per cent. Not quite as good as I had hoped for, but I could now point to real progress over five years. My first-day-back speech would be easy:

"Congratulations everyone, now let's continue to build and move on from here."

Hang on a minute, though. Last year, three pupils in that Y11 group had been kept back when at primary school. They had featured in last year's cohort as non-achievers because of their birth dates. Now, in this year's Y11 group, they have all achieved five A*-Cs but will not be included in this year's published figures. The number of our achievers is reduced to 39 for the cohort.

Hang on another minute: the local education authority has informed us that our cohort this year is 86 pupils. It appears that three pupils in our current Y11 had also been kept back at primary school and are now in Y10.

They will be recorded as non-achievers in this year's results. Our official cohort is 86.

Six pupils are out of year and this is bad news. The calculation is now 39 in a cohort of 86. This makes it 45 per cent with five A*-C grades - down 6 percentage points from my first analysis. My first-day-back speech may now take on a different slant. But should it? It has all been beyond our control. We actually taught 83 pupils and 42 of them achieved the grades, making an actual percentage of 51.

What makes me really annoyed is that I have let it get to me. Instead of enjoying our real achievement of 51 per cent with five A*-C grades, I feel frustrated that the outside world will be unaware of it when they see the published figures. The reason for this? Slavery to statistics.

D Rose Headteacher Maesydderwen school Ystradgynlais Swansea

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