In a League of their Own: the problems with League Tables
League Tables – the annual ranking of schools according to the results obtained by their pupils in GCSE and A-Level examinations – remain just as controversial as they did when they first appeared in 1992. Parents from outside (and inside) the UK are often directed to these when choosing schools for their children, to offer some kind of comparative determination as to whether or not the schools being considered are successful (‘high ranking’).
Parents are advised to tear these up! They provide no meaningful insight and are deeply flawed.
Why you should ignore League Tables
- The League Tables (and schools’ positions in them) vary according to which newspaper they appear in: school x can appear top in the Daily Telegraph but several places lower in the Times. This is due to how the crude exam result data is put together.
- Certain (more academic) subjects often taken by pupils at independent schools are not counted in League Tables data.
- Many of the best independent schools in the country do not submit their exam data and, therefore, do not appear on the lists at all.
- The more academically demanding iGCSEs are not included in League Tables data, meaning that many of the most successful schools in the country appear bottom in the published League Tables!
- In smaller schools (which many independent schools are), one or two pupils who struggle academically in their GCSE or A-Level exams, can ‘bring down’ the school’s average significantly and in no way reflects the efforts of all the pupils.
- The ‘League Table Culture’ has led to many schools withdrawing pupils from sitting exams where their grades will be borderline of weak – invalidating the very data being collected.
However, parents naturally like to understand the academic pedigree of prospective schools. How can this be ascertained?
How to judge academic performance instead
a.) Ask each school for their academic results. They will provide a detailed list outlining all subjects, and the number of children achieving each of the grades in these. This offers a much better frame of reference.
b.) Ask for lists of the destination of leavers: this will give you a better feel for the ability range of a school’s pupils.
c.) Ask for expert advice. BvS Education is able to help you to understand the wider picture and find you the right school for your child.