Heads give thumbs up to new league tables

A NEW way of measuring how students have improved has been given the thumbs up by many schools across Comet country. When last week s GCSE league tables were published by the Government they also included a value added score , which measures the differen

A NEW way of measuring how students have improved has been given the thumbs up by many schools across Comet country.

When last week's GCSE league tables were published by the Government they also included a "value added score", which measures the difference each secondary school makes between the ages of 11 and 16.

For the first time this year, it was contextualised to take into account social factors, and many headteachers were pleased with their new contextual value added (CVA) score.

A score of above 1,000 shows pupils have on average made more progress than similar pupils nationally, while scores below 1,000 show pupils have made less progress.

Fearnhill and Highfield in Letchworth GC, Hitchin Boys', Hitchin Girls' and The Priory in Hitchin, John Henry Newman and Marriotts in Stevenage, Knights Templar in Baldock, Samuel Whitbread in Clifton and Stratton Upper in Biggleswade all managed to come in above the 1,000 mark.

Patrick Marshall, Marriotts headteacher, was particularly pleased with his school's CVA, which was the second best in Hertfordshire.

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He said: "I'm delighted that our contextual value added is so high and is the second highest in Hertfordshire. Our GCSE results have gone up every year and we predict they will go up significantly this year."

All schools in Comet country reached the Government's target of 25 per cent of pupils achieving at least five A* to Cs in their GCSEs.

This year this measure included English and Maths, the so-called new "gold standard".

Independent St Francis College in Letchworth GC came top in the area, with 93 per cent of its students attaining five A* to Cs including the two core subjects.

Of the state schools, Hitchin Girls' fared best, with 83 per cent.

Headteacher Sally Edwards said she had calculated the league tables made the school the 30th best comprehensive in the country.

She added: "We were very pleased with that. Obviously it's very important that our students do have these basic skills of literacy and numeracy.

"We were also very pleased our value added was very good."

The Priory in Hitchin and Marriotts in Stevenage recorded the lowest number of A* to Cs in the area, 28 per cent.

Priory headteacher Peter Loach said: "League tables are a crude means of comparing different school intakes, they never provide the full picture.

"However we are pleased that they now show not just what grades students get but how much they progressed overall."

Catholic school John Henry Newman in Stevenage performed well across the board, with 70 per cent of its students achieving the required A* to C passes, and a CVA mark of 1010.1.

Headteacher Michael Kelly said: "We value the support that our parents give for their children's education and the school's values and expectations.

"It also reflects the high quality of teaching and the strong work ethos of our pupils."

Apart from John Henry Newman, Nobel notched up the highest percentage of A* to Cs in Stevenage, 48 per cent, although its CVA mark was 993.8.

Headteacher Alastair Craig said he was "very pleased" with the GCSE results.

He added: "We're encouraged that the value added is improving, it's not quite where we want it to be, we're looking to get it over the 1,000 mark and we're confident it will be this year and that from then on we will see it remaining confidently above that."

However, not every school welcomed the league tables.

Independent schools are not given CVA scores because they do not submit the school census data used to calculate them and some qualifications they offer, such as international GCSEs, (IGCSEs) are not included in the GCSE percentages, giving the impression of low achievements.

Princess Helena College in Preston offers an IGCSE in maths, which the schools says is a "more robust syllabus" but yet any achievements in this subject are not included in the league tables.

Headmistress Anne-Marie Hodgkiss said: "We are incredibly disappointed that the tables do not acknowledge the considerable achievements of our girls in what is considered to be, by many, a more rigorous maths exam.