As another school year ends, England’s schools face a period of “disruption and uncertainty” after ministers changed their thinking about which GCSEs will count in school league tables.
With the phasing in of new toughened GCSEs it was originally said that the old style exams would still count towards league tables while the education system transitioned to the new exams.
But in a last minute U-turn, it is now understood that although the old style GCSEs will count for students, the results of these will play no part in school accountability with the government saying that the move will mean consistency between exams.
Ministers have pushed through a range of changes to GCSE and A-level exams which require complete new syllabuses and examinations to be drawn up, approved and accredited to reach schools for teaching in 2016.
This move will disadvantage those schools currently running a three-year GCSE programme starting in Year 9 with some exams being taken in Year 10 and some in Year 11. By spreading exams over two years, this creates space in the timetable to focus on key subjects such as English and maths in Year 11.
Students starting these three-year courses this September will not be able to take the reformed GCSEs in Year 10 as they are not yet available leaving school leaders with a difficult dilemma.
Dr Peter Kent, president of the ASCL said, “They must either change decisions already made with students and parents, and rip up existing timetables, to make sure everybody takes the new reformed GCSEs, or press on with the plans they already had in place and accept that their performance tables will suffer because they will include unreformed GCSEs.”
Where previously all qualifications gained by a student by the end of Year 11 counted towards school league table rankings, from 2017 only those results gained from the reformed exams will be considered.
Dr Kent added: “It is absolute nonsense. These are perfectly valid qualifications which reflect the achievements of students, but which schools will not be allowed to include in their figures.”
The U-turn will affect 13 subjects in which reformed GCSEs will be available to teach from September 2016. These include drama, geography, history, PE, religious studies and science.
In response, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said: “Our new world-class GCSEs are raising the bar so more young people have access to the world-class education they deserve, equipping them with the skills they need to get on and succeed in life. We want pupils to be taught these new gold standard GCSE courses as soon as possible.”
She said schools should help students choose courses that “are best for them, not the league tables”.
This leaves schools to decide what is more important, performance in the league tables or performance for their individual students. The question is, is this really fair?
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