Supporting Families
Monday, 06 July 2009 18:59

Failing Schools and the 30% GCSE Rule: KOS July 2010

The following article appeared in Kent on Sunday on 6 July 2009 to address some of the unfair criticism levelled at so many Kent schools in the media by this rule of thumb.

Various parts of the media, government and those with a political agenda continue to unfairly denigrate 33 Kent schools as “failing” because 30 per cent of their pupils did not achieve 5 GCSEs at Grade C, or better.

This disgraceful formula, which ignores the fact that many schools work in difficult social areas and have not received the support to which their children are entitled, becomes doubly ridiculous when applied in Kent as it fails to acknowledge the effects of the selective system.

Let’s look at some (fairly) simple arithmetic. 25% of Kent children are selected for grammar schools. In Kent that means if you start off with 100 children 25 are taken off to grammar school leaving 75 in the non selective school.

According to government, the school is only failing if 30% of the total don’t get 5 GCSEs, but let’s assume 23 of the 25 in grammar school do (a conservative estimate).

23 of our 100 children are already through the barrier, so another 7 are needed to score the 30% total. That means for a non selective school, the barrier SHOULD be far lower, 7 out of 75. That’s just 9%.

It reduces the number of “failing” Kent schools to one (the Marlowe Academy), which is about the level you would expect as Kent children as a whole do better than the national average, 49% against the national 47%.

Meanwhile the main government strategy to resolve the problem they have invented is close the “failing” school and replace it with an Academy!  Academies are the government’s latest wheeze to improve standards, and in one sense KCC are right to encourage the concept in places as they come with expensive new premises mainly provided by government funding, often the only way of replacing some of our most decrepit schools. However, Academies are not accountable to KCC, being mainly under the control of sponsors (KCC works hard to ensure these are benign as far as possible), although there is some distant accountability to government mainly through the occasional OFSTED Inspection.

So let us discard this as yet another method of beating up schools in the poorer socio-economic areas. Yes, there are schools in Kent failing their pupils, several of whom are listed in “the 33”, but this is not the way to identify them or solve their problems. Nor is it an argument for or against the selective system. What it is guaranteed to do is to once again undermine the work and confidence of those working in some of our more difficult schools and make it even harder to recruit teachers there, thus lowering rather than improving standards in those schools.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:26

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