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Private schools 'bottom of class'

Many of England's top private schools are expected to record poor GCSE results in today's league tables amid a shake-up of the rankings.

Independent school leaders branded the tables a "nonsense", saying the exclusion of some International GCSEs (IGCSE) would leave highly-performing schools at the "bottom of the class".

Under Government reforms, some IGCSEs - favoured by many independent schools - do not count in a key performance measure this year.

As a result, schools that took that qualifications last summer are likely to see their results plummet in terms of the proportion of pupils gaining at least five C grades, including English and maths.

This is likely to hit fee-paying schools the hardest.

Ahead of the tables, which are released today, Richard Harman, chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), which represents around 270 leading independent schools, said: "The decision to drop IGCSEs from the league tables over the next two years means those tables have become a nonsense.

"Several of the UK's most highly-performing independent schools and others offering this excellent qualification will now appear to be bottom of the class in the Government's rankings.

"This obviously absurd situation creates further confusion for parents as they cannot compare schools' performance accurately and transparently."

Mr Harman, who is also headmaster of Uppingham School, said: "Many HMC schools will continue to offer the IGCSE as experience tells us it is rigorous and offers a good basis for sixth-form study. We know what works for our pupils and will always continue to provide a range of the best and most suitable courses, regardless of the vagaries of political decision-making."

The Department for Education (DfE) said the reasons schools might report low results in the key five A*-C measure include:

:: Entering students for combinations of English GCSEs such as an English literature course and a combined English course. The DfE argues that students who take English literature separately should also be able to study English language GCSE separately;

:: Entering pupils for "unregulated" IGCSEs.

A DfE spokesman said: "We have made important changes to a system that rewarded the wrong outcomes. We have stripped out qualifications that were of little value and are making sure pupils take exams when they are ready, not before.

"The changes may result in some variation across all types of schools, ensuring they are held to account for the right outcomes. We issued guidance to all schools on this."


From Belfast Telegraph