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School performance tables a damning indictment of Labour's legacy
13/01/2011 14:11:00

The Government has today pubished the most detailed information parents and the public have ever had about how England's secondary schools are performing. You can find the information on Croydon schools here.

The key indicator that the previous Government used to measure perfomance was the percentage of pupils obtaining 5A*-C GCSEs including maths and English. In 2010, 54.4% of pupils in Croydon achieved this standard, up 2.5 percentage points on last year.

The new Government wants to look at a wider measure alongside this - the number of pupils achieving what it calls the English Baccalaureate, namely A*-C GCSEs in English, maths, a science, a modern or ancient language and history or geography. Under the previous Government, there were worrying signs of a decline in the study of academic subjects and a corresponding explosion in the number taking vocational qualifications (which bizarrely count for more than one GCSE in performance tables despite being less academically demanding). The new Government wants to reverse that trend and hopes that publishing this data will help to do so.

Just 14.1% of pupils in Croydon schools achieved the English Baccalaureate standard - broadly similar to the national average.

Now a couple of caveats. First, league tables don't tell you everything about a school. Second, it is a bit harsh to judge schools against a target that has been introduced retrospectively. However, this data does show that things need to change. In nearly every other developed country in the world, children are assessed against a range of core academic subjects at 15 or 16. If we want to compete successfully with those countries economically, we need to make sure that our young people are better equipped for the world of work and whilst academic qualifications may not be for everyone, we should all be able to agree that most young people should be able to achieve this standard.

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