In Brief

Are rankings stigmatising schools in white working-class areas?

Secondary schools were subjected to two new criteria for ranking pupil achievement in 2017

Schools in white working-class areas in the UK are being “destroyed” by the current league table system in England, head teachers have claimed.

The league table format was heavily altered in January 2017, with new parameters introduced to judge pupil achievement. 

The changes have been met with considerable criticism from head teachers who say the new format is “toxic”, and that “disenfranchised” white working class communities - which traditionally produce the poorest academic results in the UK - will be “even more disillusioned if their schools are unfairly blamed”.

Only 24% of white British schoolboys gain five A* to Cs including English and Maths in their end of secondary school exams, The Daily Telegraph says.

“If this was any other ethnic group at the bottom, people would be unsettled,” says James Eldon, principal of the Manchester Enterprise Academy. “But because it’s the white working-class, it’s somehow less controversial.”

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said that although the league-table changes had originally been welcomed, the patterns emerging meant it was “definitely time to look at it again” and talks with the Department for Education were “expected”.

Until 2017, secondary school performance has been judged mainly by what proportion of pupils get five GCSEs at grade A* to C, including English and maths, the BBC writes.

Now, however, two new measures have been adopted known as Attainment 8 and Progress 8, which the Department for Education claims will make the rankings “fairer”.

Progress 8 aims to measure how well a school is serving its pupils by looking at where they started and where they end up. It does this by looking at attainment in eight GCSE, or equivalent, subjects from grade A* to G for each pupil.

These results are then compared against the results of other pupils who came into secondary schools nationally with the same attainment levels.

Attainment 8 is the average score obtained by a student for their best eight GCSE results. English and maths are compulsory and worth double points.

The maximum number of points per school is 80 points per pupil. The national average across all state secondary school is 49.9 this year, the BBC adds.

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