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Head of Croydon private school brands league tables a 'mockery'

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THE school league tables have been branded a "mockery" by a Croydon head teacher after some of the borough's top private schools placed last following changes to which qualifications are recognised.

Whitgift, Trinity and Croydon High schools - normally top of the class - propped up the rankings after the government decided not to include International GCSEs (IGCSE).

The decision also penalised St Andrew's CE High, one of the few non-independent schools to favour the IGCSE, which is seen as a more "rigorous" form of assessment.

The table shows the four schools scored zero for the number of students who achieved at least five A* to C grades including English and maths, the benchmark standard.

However, Trinity and Whigift, for example, achieved 100 and 99 per cent respectively in 2013, and they did similarly well last summer, albeit with a qualification the tables no longer take into account.

The government says it is phasing out IGCSEs, which it once championed, to make way for new GCSE exams currently being introduced in schools.

Debbie Leonard, head teacher of Croydon High, an independent girls' school in Selsdon, said she only realised what had happened the day before the results were published last Thursday.

"Having your independent sector schools bottom of the league tables, just because of the IGCSEs, makes a mockery of the whole system," she told the Advertiser. "It shows how little faith you can have in the league tables."

Mrs Leonard intends to stick with IGCSEs despite pressure to adopt the new system.

"I've told our parents we're staying with IGCEs. They are more rigorous and they are better preparation for A levels. They stretch children that bit more.

"We're preparing them for university and for employment. It's shortsighted to only consider GCSEs. I'm looking at what's right for the girls in the long term.

"We take the view that IGCSEs are better preparation for A levels. They mean our girls don't struggle in the first term [of college] because they've already come across some of the content."

St Andrew's CH High School, in Warrington Road, Waddon, saw its English scores discounted because its pupils took the English IGCSE.

Head teacher David Matthews said: "We're not badly affected in terms of the qualifications we're offering students, which are rated highly by some of the best schools in the country. I don't regret choosing the IGCSE because it offers more stability and an international clientele.

"We did what we thought was best for our pupils and I suspect many other schools will continue to do the same, even if they fall foul of the league tables."

Richard Harman, chairman of the Headmaster's and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents many independent schools, said the decision to drop IGCEs made was "absurd" and made a "nonsense" of the tables.

Despite the confusion, Mr Matthews believes the system still has merit.

He said: "I wouldn't say league tables were nonsense because there needs to be some sort of comparison between schools. But, as the saying goes: 'Not everything of value can be counted.'

"That we have chosen a highly regarded course which is appropriate for our students is the most important thing. It's up to the government to keep up with that."

Results fall for the first time in decade 

CHANGES to the exam system, which extend further than just discounting IGCSEs, make comparing last summer's scores to 2013 difficult.

But, whichever equation is used, it is clear the borough's GCSE results have fallen for the first time in 11 years, in line with the national picture.

According to the Department for Education, 56.8 per cent of pupils achieved at least five A* to C grades in 2014, down from 64.4 per cent in 2013. Croydon's pupils did marginally better than the national average for state schools (56.6 per cent).

The Advertiser first reported declining GCSE grades in September, after the unvalidated scores were published in Gavin Barwell's election manifesto.

The tables published last week were largely the same as reported then, with few schools managing to improve their position amid changes to the exam system. Coloma Convent Girls' School finished top despite a five per cent fall in the number of pupils meeting the benchmark standard.

Results were expected to fall after the government introduced reforms designed to discourage schools from allowing pupils to take exams early.

Some schools that posted improved grades, such as Riddlesdown Collegiate, in Purley, said the changes played to their strengths. Others which experienced significant declines, such as Edenham High and Thomas More Catholic School, said the government's tinkering made comparison with 2013 impossible.

Addington High was taken over by a Bromley-based academy in June 2013 due to poor exam results but the move has not improved its fortunes, with the school propping up the league table in Croydon after just 37 per cent of pupils achieved the expected level.

Head of Croydon private school brands league tables a 'mockery'


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