Grammar schools in tougher ranking call
BBC |May 2, 2012
They should be ranked on how many pupils get A and A* grades at GCSE, says a study for the Schools Network.
Schools in England are measured on how many pupils get A* to C grades in five GCSEs, including maths and English.
The report also shows wide variations in both the intake of grammar schools in different parts of England and in pupils’performance at GCSE.
In general, it found that grammars in less wealthy areas were more likely to have pupils who entered them with lower academic attainment than other grammars.
Performance at GCSE was also relatively lower, although still high when compared with the national average.
Usually grammars come high up in the academic league tables, with most scoring close to 100% in the government’s chosen measure- pupils getting five A* to C grades including maths and English.
Among pupils at comprehensives, about 58% reach that level.
The study was carried out by Professor David Jesson for the Schools Network. He is an associate director of the organisation, which represents 5,000 schools and academies, including about 100 of England’s 164 grammar schools.
Professor Jesson looked at how the schools measured up against each other if ranked on what proportion of pupils got five GCSEs including maths and English all at A* or A grades.
He said: “I am quite surprised by the findings because of the range of outcomes for schools which appear to recruit very similar students.
“The 19 schools in London are really quite outstanding. The South East [Kent and Medway] came lowest.
“More important, there was quite a range of outcomes between schools in each area.”
Grammar schools are small in number compared with other secondaries; there are about 3,500 secondary schools and academies in England.
Professor Jesson, of the University of York, says his study shows some grammar schools need to improve.
“Grammar schools should expect to achieve high levels of performance for their pupils and most do. There are however substantial differences between grammar schools’ outcomes which tend to go unnoticed in the standard performance tables.
“If we are genuinely committed to the idea of excellence for all we need a new way of measuring the performance of these schools and making sure that every pupil reaches their full potential.”
Those opposed to academic selection believe it widens the gap between rich and poor, and say grammar schools tend to be dominated by the middle classes.
Just over 2% of children at grammar schools are eligible for free school meals compared with a national average of about 16%.
The campaign group Comprehensive Future says it does not want to see grammar schools abolished – just the 11-plus exam which is used to select pupils.
Fiona Millar from the group said: “I do think it is important that the performance of grammars is scrutinised more closely.
“The 5 A* -C measure is quite a crude one with which to judge schools that are already taking the top 20-30% of children.
“There is an assumption that they are all outstanding schools, but we should be allowed to see more evidence about whether the teaching and progress does justify that claim.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “No school can ever afford to rest on its laurels.
“We want to make sure that all schools are stretching their brightest pupils and that schools with very able intakes are helping students reach their full potential rather than allowing them to coast along.
“The tables now show expected and actual performance for low, middle and high-attaining pupils so that schools can be judged on whether they are improving all their students.”
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