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League tables to ignore race and poverty

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 3 June, 2011 | By: William Stewart

Ministers claim CVA entrenches low aspirations for disadvantaged children

Future Government league tables will no longer take account of pupils’ deprivation, ethnicity and other background factors when comparing school exam and test results, The TES has learned.

Unions are warning that the abolition of the contextual value added (CVA) measure without a replacement will further stack the odds against heads and teachers who choose to work in the most deprived areas.

The decision, which will affect the next set of tables due to be published later this year, could even create recruitment problems in schools battling the highest levels of social disadvantage, they said.

Performance tables will continue to show how much progress pupils make compared to their prior levels of attainment, and how many pupils there are with special educational needs in each school.

But all attempts to include this kind of contextual factor in a measure of schools’ exam or test performance have now ended.

Martin Ward, Association of School and College Leaders deputy general secretary, said: “This won’t help schools in deprived areas to demonstrate they are doing a good job. That is already difficult with all the systems punishing people who take on difficult jobs and rewarding those who have easier ones.”

The abolition of CVA ends five years of trying to give schools credit for the nature of the areas they serve and continues a trend of placing more emphasis on their “raw” unadjusted exam results.

Raw results have become more important for Ofsted inspection judgements and have been at the centre of the ‘National Challenge’ floor exam target approach to school improvement begun by Labour and continued under the Coalition.

Ministers first outlined their plans to drop CVA in an education white paper last year, but did not specify a timescale. The TES has now learned that the change will apply from this year.

In the white paper, ministers said: “It is morally wrong to have an attainment measure which entrenches low aspirations for children because of their background.

“We do not think it right to expect pupils eligible for free school meals to make less progress from the same starting point as pupils who are not eligible for free school meals.”

But Mary Bousted, general secretary of teaching union the ATL, said: “Schools are to be subjected to the publication of a bewildering array of new data from teacher absence rates to the average salary range.

“It is strange that the Government is taking away the one measure which shows that most schools - given their intake - perform at remarkably similar levels.

“Research shows that most variation is within schools not between them. That is a politically inconvenient truth for governments which invest so much in school effectiveness. The absence of CVA will allow ministers to tell the story they want to.”

CVA adds nine contextual factors to a measure of how much value a school has added to their exam results. They also include gender, first language, postcode and whether or not pupils are in local authority care. But some academics have argued the margins for statistical error effectively render CVA meaningless.

Mr Ward admitted the measure had “weaknesses” but said it should be reformed rather than abolished.

The Conservatives revealed they were unhappy with CVA last year while in opposition, but complained when The TES reported it wanted to ditch deprivation from league tables, claiming it would reform or replace the measure.

Ben Slade, head of The Manor - A Foundation School in Cambridge, which has above average CVA said: “It is divisive to remove CVA because it will camouflage coasting schools whether they are outstanding, good or satisfactory.”

But a Department for Education spokesman said: “The old CVA score was absolutely meaningless to most parents - and unions know this. We want to make sure that schools’ hard work is recognised and understood - the new floor targets include progression specifically to do this.”


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Comment (16)

  • It would surely be a much better move if league tables for schools were just abolished. As a controversial and deeply flawed exercise, league tables actually try to compare 'like' with 'unlike' and in the process heap dreadful stress and anxiety upon both teachers and pupils.

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    14:36
    3 June, 2011

    DrDavidNicholls

  • Couldn't agree more. League tables are responsible for terrible misconceptions about education in England. There is much could say but I will justbask one question: why is Engkand developing labyrinthine versions of new league tables when Dcotland, Wales and NI don't have them at all?

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    20:37
    3 June, 2011

    Andrewhampton

  • This doesn't surprise me at all. Join the dots..............We know what this government wants to do with 'failing' schools, and anyone in teaching knows there will be many more such schools if CVA is abolished.

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    23:44
    3 June, 2011

    eloiseann

  • I agree that league tables for schools should be abolished. This would eliminate teaching to the test and hence improve actual learning of useful knowledge. Then we could make meaningful comparisons between the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.

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    10:41
    4 June, 2011

    godsend

  • Future Government league tables will no longer take account of pupils’ deprivation, ethnicity and other background factors when comparing school exam and test results........................so league tables will now reflect how middle class the parents of your pupils are rather than how well they are taught.

    If you have fundamentally flawed baseline data on which to base your league tables then you have fundamentally flawed league tables. CVA isn't perfect but telling teachers, heads, parents & pupils that their school is crap because it hasn't enough middle class kids is going to drive DOWN standards in areas which are already deprived.

    More Gove madness!

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    18:43
    4 June, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • In total agreement with the above comments. I for one teach in such a school and know how much hard work is put in by all stakeholders to ensure our kids attain their potential. Still I suppose we couldtry cloning kids to give them an even start!

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    20:34
    5 June, 2011

    Agnespattison

  • The Terrible Tories spend their time complaining that the Left are trying to impose forms of social engineering.

    This is yet another step on the way towards a multi-tier social engineering programme with kids learning their position in life as early as posible.........we used to call this class war!

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    21:14
    5 June, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • So parents don't understand CVA? Gove should come to parents evening at my school. Talk levels of progress, expected age related standards and fine levels and most parents' eyes glaze over. What a paltry excuse! As if the government is interested in what parents think. We all know where this is leading to - the wholesale creation of academies and free schools. If you're in a deprived area and you can't achieve the standards, no matter how much progress the pupils make, you'll end up being taken over by an academy.

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    21:19
    5 June, 2011

    june.kershaw

  • Silly Mr Gove and his ministers! Of course we do not expect expect FSM pupils to make less progress. In fact they often make more progress than their peers having entered school at a lower starting point . Teachers have high expectations of such pupils and are constantly being held to account through performance management and pupil progress reviews to ensure they make accelerated progress. Perhaps the Eton boys don't understand that often these children experience a disruptive homelife which may include alcohol and drug abuse, foster care, adoption etc,etc. The FSM formula is not used to lower expectations but to analyse and understand data in order to intervene effectively and ensure pupils close the gap.

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    21:40
    5 June, 2011

    june.kershaw

  • Little more than five minutes walk from where I live there is a flourishing oversubscribed church primary school with a full contingent of 'pushy middle class parents'. Just over a mile away from this church school there is another primary school located in the middle of a dismal housing estate. The social problems and dreadful disadvantage facing this second primary school simply beggar belief! It seems to me that according to league table ranking, the latter school, no matter how hard it tries, is now being set up to fail. And having failed, this will provide the pretext for some sort of move towards academy status - 'coincidentally', a move so favoured by the present government.

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    12:16
    6 June, 2011

    DrDavidNicholls

  • The OECD warned in its latest Economic Survey of the UK that there was too much emphasis on grades in the UK school system and such "high-stake tests" can impact negatively on educational outcomes. OECD said that CVA was a move in the right direction but the government should devise more sophisticated ways of judging the efficiency of a school.

    What is the government's response to the serious worries from an organisation that it claims to respect? Ditch the CVA!

    A discussion about how best to judge schools has just begun on the Local Schools Network:

    http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/06/too-much-emphasis-on-grades-is-cause-of-concern-say-oecd/#comment-8000

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    15:33
    6 June, 2011

    Retired123

  • The LSE report cited in the article above was more nuanced than you suggest. The report did not give a whole-hearted assertion that proximity to an academy benefited neighbouring schools. The "academy effect" occurred when schools were "mainly" in the vicinity of an academy that produced "large significant improvements in their pupil performance". The authors say they don't believe this improvement is a coincidence and conclude that "it is possible for performance improvements in an academy to generate significant beneficial external effects on their neighbouring schools." A possibility is not a certainty.

    The report says: “the results paint a (relatively) positive picture of the academy schools that were introduced by the Labour government of 1997-2010”

    "Relatively positive" is not a ringing endorsement.

    In any case, as statisticians are constantly being reminded: correlation does not imply causation.

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    15:48
    6 June, 2011

    Retired123

  • I do believe that if a school's A*-C levels are below 10% it is a bit of a clue as to the calibre of the intake.

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    16:21
    7 June, 2011

    Lilyofthefield

  • I teach in a "national Challenge" school situated less than 5 miles away from a highly acclaimed girls' grammar school. I chortled deeply when OFSTED worked out that my establishment had a higher CVA than that lauded temple of academe. We made silk purses : they merely embroidered on what was already there.

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    16:56
    8 June, 2011

    suesiq

  • Overall, in response to the original article, I believe there is an underlying systemic problem and the initial creation of CVA was simply a necessary ‘plaster’ for the deeper issues already present within education. On some levels it has abated the fallout but could not in the end really rectify the overarching dilemmas we face in the future of education!

    No child should be disadvantaged because of the background, upbringing, access to resources and equal opportunities they have experienced. And as with all society we remain products of our own past and present, our experiences and the institutions within which we negotiate our identities do dictate on many levels our ability to function outside the ‘box’! This is true of education itself, and true of a school within its own environment, and yet does not necessarily have to dictate how we approach the learning of our students.
    We have no right, I feel, as professionals to dictate the designs and destinations of any child’s future, especially within the confines of an institution becoming more and more restricted by its own bureaucratic rigorous practices.
    We have to ask ourselves if the eloquent derivative of assessment league tables has ever and would ever be able to truly reflect the abilities of students, the diversity of schools and approaches to education each individual institution can flourish within.
    Ken Robinson in his TED lecture (2010) spoke of the educational system maintaining its ‘manufactured’ status, where we persist in structuring it within confines of standardisation and only ensuring our young people and children are adequately equipped for one linear level of working life. Instead he proposes the move towards ‘Organic’ and ‘Agricultural’ models to enhance the creativity and individual passion for each child and young person that could equip them with the skills for our unknown future.

    League tables neither enhance our sense of worth and achievement, nor do they truly reflect the developments of creativity and individual sense of purpose each child and young person is capable of! Therefore at the heart of the matter is how we assess our institutions and compare them to one another, when really they each individually exist in their own vacuum to some extent. CVA merely ‘recreated the wheel’ for schools to compete, as opposed to enabling them to establish their own approaches to working with their unique demographic of students.

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  • suesiq

    In reply to any future critical Ofsted report which will now be based on very limited data concerning your "national Challenge" school; you can offer a genuine solution to the problems faced by your school.

    How?

    Simply 'bus' the children 5 miles from their highly acclaimed girls' grammar school to your school & swap them for a full academic year with your children. As that highly acclaimed girls' grammar school are implied by Gove to contain much 'better' teachers than your school they'll be able to trurn all your pupils into academic stars. At the same time your staff could demonstrate now not-to-teach-properly to the grammer school girls and we'd see the effect on their academic performance. If Gove & Ofsted don't believe in CVA surely they'd be happy to fund this experiment. If suddenly all your kids got fantastic A*-C results and the grammer-girls mostly failed we'll know CVA was nonsense and that results are all down to JUST 'good' or 'bad' teaching. If the results of the kids hardly changed we'd know CVA is a good measure & the problem of "national Challenge" schools is far more complex than JUST 'good' or 'bad' teaching.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    22:25
    8 June, 2011

    Brooke Bond

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