Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Points-per-Grade Scale Proposed to Tackle League Table 'Gaming': News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Points-per-Grade Scale Proposed to Tackle League Table 'Gaming': News

Article excerpt

Ministers discuss new measure to end focus on the C/D borderline.

Ministers are considering new league table measures that would assign points to each grade a pupil achieves at GCSE in a bid to stop schools "gaming" the system by focusing on the five A to C benchmark.

Schools minister David Laws said this week that he was looking at the measure among a range of options to overhaul the ways school standards were held to account.

The proposals come as Mr Laws dismissed concerns held by employers, teachers and even the head of exams regulator Ofqual around the new English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs). He claimed that many of the fears around the new exam were misinformed.

Speaking to TES, the Liberal Democrat said the Department for Education was aware of the need for a more accurate accountability framework and was considering a measure that would assign a point score to each grade in an attempt to counteract the focus on the C/D borderline.

"That type of thing is something we're looking at," he said. "It is among quite a number that we're looking at and for each of these things we need to test what behaviour it is likely to drive and will it drive good behaviour."

Mr Laws said there should be a range of measures so that the system did not become "excessively dependent on one thing that can be gamed".

"[This needs to be done] without adding so many different elements to accountability that schools don't know whether they are coming or going and nobody can see whether schools are doing well or badly," he added.

The extent to which schools try to "game the system" was recently highlighted in TES by news that hundreds of schools were entering pupils for GCSE and IGCSE English at the same time in an attempt to boost their position in league tables.

Earlier this year, Graham Stuart, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, raised the issue of "perverse incentives" created by the government's focusing too heavily on the proportion of pupils gaining five A to C grades, including English and maths.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, welcomed the idea of a point-based system but warned against a reliance on any single measure when it came to league table accountability.

"We need something like it: the exact mechanics will have to be carefully thought through, but as long as we have this threshold we will get these perverse incentives," Mr Hobby said. "As long as the point system was communicated clearly to parents, it could be used to report pupils' progress effectively. …

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