Too much emphasis on exams is putting children off "high performing" schools

Howard Knight's picture
Some 10 weeks ago, I wrote about why caution was essential in using any of the various 'good school guides' because they totally over-relied on exam results for their recommendations: SATs, GCSEs and A Levels.

Last week, the latest Primary School Performance Data was published. As usual, the national, regional and local media just concentrated on the league table of SATs results to define whether a school is ‘good’ or ‘could do better’, despite all the research evidence suggesting that this league table does little more than provide a reflection of the socio-economic and educational status of the parents.

Of course, SATS results are important and every school should be striving to ensure that each and every child achieves to the highest potential.

But, in helping to determine whether a school is ‘good’, it is far more important to look at the other statistics which are published – particularly CVA (Contextual Added Value) and the “% of pupils who make two levels of progress in English and Maths” between the Key Stages. Taken together with the OFSTED reports, they provide a far better picture of real school performance than the SATS results.

I was delighted to note that Byron Wood School - where I am a parent and a governor, and which has an 85% BME population and a 39% pa turnover, and whose SATS results (despite continued year on year progress) put it in the '1000 failing primary schools target list) - achieved a 98% success rate in the '% of children making two or more levels of progress in Maths'. This was the 2nd best performance in the city - impressively and significantly higher than many of the schools which are rated highly by the 'guides'.

Perhaps this explains why, in this term alone, two of the school's teachers have moved their children into the school from schools which are much higher up the SATS' league table. The children say "we're much happier here and we get more challenging work to do."
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Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 21/12/2010 - 17:43

I can sympathise with the points of view here. While I actually approve of SATs in the main, I think we can easily become too obsessed by them, particularly in the competitive environment of school league tables. We need what Aristotle calls "the golden mean"; a fair balance between accountability and freedom. I don't think governments of recent times have got this balance right; indeed this government's absolute obsession with results is going to make things much worse.

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