Wednesday, 4 February 2015

GCSE Results - Mixed messages

After a month of mixed headlines on the Council's performance on education it was not without a sense of irony that the Portfolio holder for Education tweeted me on my supposed lack of response to the KS4 results.

The Council did not waste any-time in triumphantly claiming that Medway's results were above the national average. Such is the paucity of good news that a decline in performance is now applauded as being a significant success. The hubris of Tory portfolio holders of course was to be expected.

It has to be said that our Secondary Schools in Medway are in a significantly better state when compared with our Primary Schools. Given we are 150/150 in England on OFSTED this is something that is welcome of course; but it would be a fool who seemingly rests on this as being a marker of success.

Our OFSTED results are on the whole good for Secondary Schools. The schools are providing - in large measure - a good environment for our children. This is to be celebrated.

The concern is however that even with well performing OFSTEDs that some schools are not seeing this through to KS4 outcomes.  The Council announcement last week is vague on detail. 

It has to be said that our Medway Grammar Schools continue to perform with excellence and this is something that must continue. Schools that are working for the community do not need interference from politicians. Under Labour from 1997-2010 our Grammar Schools went from success to success; this must continue.

However, the outcomes for those not attending our Grammar Schools (over 2/3rds of the 3,000 cohort taking GCSEs) reflect concern.

Breakdown of GCSE results have shown

  •  Eleven out of seventeen secondary schools saw static or worsening performance. Across Medway over 2,000 pupils are in Secondary schools where results outcomes for 5+ GCSE at A*-C were static or declining in 2014/15 vs 2013/14.  
  • Over 2/3rds of GCSE (KS4) entries were in Non-Grammar schools whose average results 5+ GCSE at A*-C were 12% below the national average  and 14% below the Local Authority average. Only 44.8% of pupils in these schools received 5+ GCSE at A*-C level.
  •  2/3rds of GCSE (KS4) entries were in schools with an average Free-School Meal level of almost 20% vs 5% in Grammar Schools.
  • Year-on-Year results highlight larger decline in outcomes in non-Grammar schools with a 3.5% deeper decline in results vs 0.8% for Grammar schools. 

Whilst my thoughts on Primary Schools are well documented I do have concerns about the results of our non-Grammar secondary school pupils. Medway Council has rejected - wrongly - the need for a single Education directorate and a new Director of School Standards appointed to oversee Primary and Secondary School education. Focus needs to be given to ensure teachers in classrooms are qualified to the highest level of standards and that where we do see significant variance in results year-on-year that schools have leaders in place to maintain quality of standards.   

In reality, our well performing Grammar schools are masking an underlying weakness in non-Grammar schools at KS4. Focus needs to be placed on schools which have seen significant negative variance to ensure plans are in place to mitigate changes to the GCSE assessment process. In addition all elected representatives need to be sensitive to fact that non-grammar schools, which have a higher level of Free School meals per pupil, need to remain the absolute focus. 

Improvements to schools at the mid-bottom end of the KS4 table could see the Authority rise significantly on the overall average score that we have now. It should therefore be in the interests of all for this to happen.

The Council press statement on Secondary school outcomes was complacent. For two thirds of pupils not attending Grammar Schools to see – on average - significantly worse outcomes at KS4 compared to the UK average; and this worsening relatively year-on-year; should warrant significant debate in the Council.

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