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More tables, more trouble.


State schools are usually very tolerant of the Department for Education. Whatever educational wheezes it dreams up, schools are willing to give them a go. But this time the DfE has surpassed itself.

Government annual examination league tables, published last week, always manage to raise a smile by their absurdity. My own school, selective at 11, used to come top of GCSE league tables, as might be reasonably expected. However, in the last couple of years, we have plummeted to a nil score because the school has had the audacity to choose GCSE examinations particularly well-suited to bright girls but which haven't had Government blessing. So all the hard work is as nought - at least when it comes to league tables.

But this year's tables have presented a new challenge. An unexpected column has appeared against which schools are to be judged, of which no one had any idea when planning for GCSEs two years ago. The table is about a concept called the English Baccalaureate which involved counting the children that have 5 A* to C grades in a hitherto unmentioned group of subjects.

So a whole new approach to assessment has been opened up. You might for example decide, a month or two before the summer exams, that Spanish GCSE is far too easy and so instead of giving children a Spanish exam, you change it to a Russian one at the last minute.

Those trivial poems on the GCSE syllabus are clearly not worth the paper they are written on, so instead of expecting an analysis of some poet no one has ever heard of, let's slip onto the exam paper a piece of Dryden instead. That will show them. And give incontrovertible proof to the DfE of what they always believe - that teachers are rubbish.

I keep thinking that the league table culture has got so ridiculous that it must be scrapped. The endless columns, too small to read and presenting figures ridiculed by school statisticians, claim to give objectivity to judging schools. The culture ridicules the concept of education of the whole child, suggests that parents can't be left to consider for themselves the real merits of a school and that teachers will have failed if their school's position in the table hasn't shot up.

Let's stop it before we have more columns than we have teachers.

Sarah Evans, Principal, King Edward VI High School for Girls
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 20, 2011
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