Schools ‘stop poorer GCSE pupils taking hard subjects’ to improve league table rankings

The Mail is reporting research that suggests schools in deprived areas are denying pupils access to tougher GCSE subjects in a bid to improve their league table ranking…

Particular concerns have been raised over access to triple science GCSE, with up to half the schools in some areas refusing to offer it, according to data published today.

Researchers said it was clear school leaders were trying to minimise poor exam results by ushering pupils towards easier subjects…

The research, carried out by Open Public Services Network (OPSN) at the RSA think-tank, showed access to tough subjects varied according to postcode.

Roger Taylor, chairman of the OPSN, said: ‘This would be of little concern if these differences reflected the needs and choices of pupils and families.

‘Our worry is that instead they reflect decisions made by schools and are based on calculations as to how schools can appear better on league tables by encouraging children to avoid taking on more challenging subjects.’

…The disparity is so huge that children in Knowsley, Merseyside, are half as likely to be enrolled for triple science GCSE as children in Buckinghamshire…

In a report to be published next week, the RSA will warn of ‘subject deserts’ within certain local authorities, with pupils not given the option of finding a school which offers the subjects they want to study.

The report will argue that local authorities are unlikely to be able to tackle the problem with a growing number of schools converting to academy status – and thus enjoying greater autonomy…

More at: Schools ‘stop poorer GCSE pupils taking hard subjects’: Ploy to boost league rankings by denying access to exams including sciences

See more from the OPSN at: Students from deprived neighbourhoods being denied access to ‘tougher subjects

The full report isn’t out yet but what do you make of the accusation that schools are restricting choice to boost their league table rankings? And if valid, what should be done about it?


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This had to be The Mail – with so much emphasis placed upon results/league tables, what do you expect?

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Surely by choosing subjects/qualifications that suit their cohort the schools are actually doing the right thing.

  3. rachelrossiter

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove doesn’t being entered for triple science rely on reaching a certain level at end of Year 9? Bigger picture

  4. andylutwyche

    rachelrossiter SchoolsImprove It’s a typical bit of Daily Mail tripe. Not a “news”paper, more a soap box for the ill-informed

  5. andylutwyche

    “wendymaria100: andylutwyche rachelrossiter SchoolsImprove it is always handy to line the cat’s litter tray” If I was a cat I’d refuse

  6. wendymaria100

    andylutwyche rachelrossiter SchoolsImprove is all a huge fib anyway; we would not have such trash in the house, litter tray or not

  7. andylutwyche

    “wendymaria100: andylutwyche andylutwyche rachelrossiter SchoolsImprove she does, puddles on the floor in protest” Good on her! #taste

  8. DaveLewarne

    DrJacqueBaxter SchoolsImprove nothing new. been done for years, yet OFSTED claim pupil achievement weak enough 2 close DurhamFreeSch

  9. Janet2

    Just had a look at the actual press release  from RSA.  Is this supposed to be a serious analysis?

    Using 2013 figures, it compares Knowsley (7 secondary schools with results) with Buckinghamshire (34 secondary schools with results).  7 is too small a sample to come to a reliable conclusion – one school entering more pupils for science would skew the percentage disproportionately.

    The same with the Isles of Scilly where there’s just one all-through school – pupils are most likely to be entered for Art in this one school.  So prospective artists should flock to the Isle of Scilly, then?

    It’s right, though, how the accountability regime ‘can incentivise schools to offer more limited opportunities to children in an effort to maximise the school’s rating.’  We saw that when schools offered equivalent exams to inflate results.

    Where it’s on dodgy ground is suggesting children should be tracked via National Pupil database, FE college data, destinations data and tax information.  Not sure parents, pupils and young people will be happy with that.

  10. Janet2

    @DaveLewarne DrJacqueBaxter SchoolsImprove DurhamFreeSch More than just weak achievement.  Far more problems.  Read the inspection report.  Read the Financial Notice to Improve.

  11. Janet2

    The link to the RSA press release below.  It does not say schools ‘stop poorer GCSE pupils taking hard subjects’.  The Mail put that phrase in quotation marks implying it was a direct quotation.  But it wasn’t.  Isn’t that a little deceptive?

    The press release said ‘the data show that in some parts of Britain, opportunities are restricted because all the schools within a neighbourhood have decided not to offer more challenging subjects.’

    Yet the examples given did not show ALL the schools had decided not to offer challenging subjects.  In North East Lincolnshire the report said 50% of the 10 schools in the LEA
    did not offer triple science GCSE. That
    means 50% did.  The report said more than a third of
    schools do not enter any pupils for triple science in Knowsley (43%), Slough
    (36%), Kingston upon Hull (38%) and Newcastle (36%).But in all these cases, two-thirds did enter
    some pupils for triple science.

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