Why have league table goalposts been moved?

I was extremely concerned to read the government announcement that slipped into the in-tray at the end of last term amid sports days and strike action.

Circular 05362002 from the Department for Education and Skills says that GCSEGNVQ exam league tables this autumn will now use only students' best eight GCSEs to calculate the average points score for each pupil. Measures of "value-added" will be based on this figure.

This is unacceptable for the following reasons:

* it begs questions about which exams will be included in the best eight; a good half GCSE will, for example, get fewer points than a poorer full GCSE.

* it will create huge confusion as the public compares this year's score with last year's without realising the difference in the way the figures are calculated.

* it will imply to students that part of their learning has been without value.

* it penalises schools that have embraced this notion and encourages a narrowing of the curriculum to ensure that just eight subjects are done well.

* it contradicts the encouragement schools have had from ministers over the past five years to extend learning opportunities and the accreditation of learning.

* announced as it was after the exams, it is like moving the goalposts after the penalty kick has been taken.

The reason given for the cap on the number of exams that count is to pave the way for the 14-19 curriculum reforms. But if we are to have a genuinely broad and diverse curriculum as envisaged by the 14-19 proposals, then we need a much more sophisticated set of measures. Limiting the average points score to just eight exams seems to head in the wrong direction.

At the very least, the full average points score should be printed in the performance tables alongside the capped one, so that the public can plainly see the extent to which the capped score mis-represents the school's performance.

Kevin O'Regan

15 Church Lane

Evenley, Brackley, Northants

Headteacher Wolverley high, Worcestershire

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