Performance table reform and transparency will raise standards and end perverse incentives

Published on Wednesday, 20 July 2011 12:10
Posted by Scott Buckler

The Department for Education today announced that only the highest quality qualifications will be included in new, transparent school league tables (July 20th)

Today’s reforms follow Professor Alison Wolf’s review of vocational education. They will ensure schools focus on valued qualifications that make it easier for young people to enter good jobs or go on to higher education.

All 14-16 qualifications currently count in performance tables whether or not they include external assessment. From 2014 only GCSEs and valued vocational qualifications that meet strict new criteria will be recognised in the tables. All these qualifications will count equally. At the moment, some qualifications are worth as much as six GCSEs in the tables.

Schools will retain the freedom to offer any qualification approved for 14- to 16-year-olds. Teachers will still be able to use their professional judgement to offer the qualifications which they believe are right for their pupils. But only the most rigorous will count in league tables.

A consultation, to run until the end of September, will help define the rules governing high-quality qualifications.

We propose that all full-course GCSEs, established iGCSEs and AS levels should continue to count in the tables.

We also propose that other qualifications should only count if:


  • They have a proven track record - only qualifications that have been taught for at least two years with good levels of take-up among 14-16 year olds should be included.
  • They offer pupils progression into a broad range of qualifications post-16 rather than a limited number in one or two occupational areas.
  • They are the size of a GCSE or bigger.
  • They have a substantial proportion of external assessment.
  • They have grades such as A*-G (those with simple pass or fail results will be excluded).

When the consultation ends a list of qualifications which will feature in future performance tables will be drawn up.

In order to ensure that students are encouraged to follow a balanced curriculum which encourages progress, only two non-GCSEs will be allowed to count towards the existing five A*-C GCSE indicators.

The Wolf Report demonstrated that the current performance table system creates perverse incentives. Schools have been tempted to teach qualifications which attract the most points in the performance tables – not the qualifications that will support young people to progress.

The number of so-called equivalent qualifications taken in schools up to age 16 has exploded in recent years - from 15,000 in 2004 to 575,000 in 2010.
There are 4827 qualifications currently approved to be taught to 14- to 16-year-olds. These are listed in the Section 96 section of this website.
In 2009-10, 125,367 students achieved Level 1 (grades D to G) in so-called equivalent qualifications, up from 11,007 in 2003-04.
In 2009-10, 462,182 students achieved Level 2 (grades A* to C) in so-called equivalent qualifications, including BTECs, up from 1882 in 2003-04.

Professor Alison Wolf said:

Pupils need to acquire the broad skills which will enable them to progress in the short term, and to thrive over a lifetime of worldwide economic and industrial change.

The Government needs to give schools every incentive possible to offer the programmes and qualifications which will achieve this end. In recent years though, schools have been under enormous pressure to pile up league table points. When any qualification under the English sun can contribute these, the pernicious effects are obvious.

We need a single list of good qualifications which all have the same key structural characteristics, but cover a wide range of content. They need to be stretching, standardised, and to fit easily into a typical pupil’s programme and into a school’s overall timetable.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Young people should be taking only the best qualifications in academic and vocational subjects that allow them to progress.

Reforming the league tables so that they include only those qualifications that allow young people to maximise their potential is long overdue.


Source: DFE

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