'value added' secondary school scores

(37 Posts)
Cat98 Thu 22-Nov-12 11:38:46

If you were looking for a secondary school for a bright child but couldn't afford private, and you had two reasonable options, which would you choose?
1400 pupils, higher than average fsm entitlement but with a 'value added score in the top 5 percent of the uk' OR c.1000 pupils, slightly lower than average fsm entitlement but not great ofsted report recently - however has just received a lot of funding.
Thanks, I know it's quite limited info but based on info provided which would you choose?

Takver Thu 22-Nov-12 12:03:24

I would visit both schools and see which I thought seemed like it would suit my dc more - we've just chosen an objectively 'worse' school on the grounds it seems far more appropriate for dd's needs/talents.

Blu Thu 22-Nov-12 15:41:31

I'd visit - but on paper the first school sounds as if it is delivering a better education.

AndrewD Thu 22-Nov-12 16:06:03

Did you get the value added scores by cohort? The DoE break it into low/middle/high attainers. Our local comp does a good job (over 1000) with low and middle, but a poor job with the very few high attainers (well below 1000).

When I went to the open day and spoke to teachers, their focus on 95% of the schools intake was obvious. They did have a couple of very bright kids that were effectively fending for themselves - they did well because they were super self motivated. However, the school doesn't tell you about the high attainers that fell behind on their watch - but the DoE cohort statistics tell you that it really happens.

BoffinMum Mon 26-Nov-12 20:14:58

Based on the latest OECD report, I would choose the one with the fewest possible children in receipt of FSM if I had a middle class child, to ensure best academic results.

TimeChild Mon 26-Nov-12 20:36:59

"Based on the latest OECD report, I would choose the one with the fewest possible children in receipt of FSM if I had a middle class child, to ensure best academic results. " Why?

I would choose the first school.

lljkk Mon 26-Nov-12 20:49:08

All other things being exactly equal (this is unlikely!), with descrip you give, I'd favour the bigger school for being bigger.

BoffinMum Mon 26-Nov-12 21:31:52

Because the OECD data, along with lots of other studies, shows that bright middle class children do best academically when surrounded by other bright middle class children. It's a sad fact but true.

If I was planning a whole country education system, however, I would try to mix all children up as much as possible, as this leads to the highest average levels of attainment and overall is better for GDP/GNP.

But we are talking about an individual child here.

safflower Tue 27-Nov-12 05:39:43

Visit the school, have a good look round, ask questions. Look right into the maths and english, science gcse results. Ask how many of them were foundation level, how many were higher level. If all/majority foundation level, then the school is not good. It is securing it's 5 A to C inc maths and english, at the cost of the childs grades.

Ask other parents, whose children have been through the system there and recently left. They will have the truth of the results, rather than parents of current pupils, who may be full of promises from the school about how marvellous it is.

And I would take very little notice of the league tables.As I said 5 x A to C including maths and english could be at the lowest level, not at the level the child is capable of doing.

safflower Tue 27-Nov-12 05:46:45

Forgot to add, that what I mean from the above is that a Foundation paper with a grade C will be included in the A to C results. That means that in some cases, the school has taken the easy option to guarantee the child C grade when he/she could well have been capable of B or A, but unable to as the highest grade is C.

Also remember that the GCSE also goes from A to E, and they are all passes in the Government's eyes. Look at what percentage you need to get an E. Yes, it might make the child think they have done well, but a coupld of questions right, and you gain an E, even if everything else was wrong! Seriously an E means their is no real knowledge of a subject, yet the government is happy to say you have passed.

TimeChild Tue 27-Nov-12 08:03:41

Boffinmum, how do you know that OP is 'middle class'? ...or as we are on the education forum on mumsnet, we are by definition 'middle class'? hmm

BoffinMum Tue 27-Nov-12 08:13:14

Fair point. OP, please describe the jobs of you and your DH, and give an indication of your respective highest levels of educational attainment as I was being scientifically sloppy there. wink

lljkk Tue 27-Nov-12 08:18:20

I don't think OP has stated whether her child qualifies as "bright", either. Not that there's a consensus definition for that, either.

I worked in a school with a very high value added (easily in top 5%).

In that particular school it meant they were taking v v v low acheivers and getting 5 gcses out of them. There were very few pupils in that school that acheived anything higher than a C at GCSE.

I thimk you need to look at actual results in combination with value added.

OhDearConfused Tue 27-Nov-12 09:52:24

IIjkk yes OP did say "bright".

Arcticwaffle Tue 27-Nov-12 09:57:14

My older dc go to a school with a very high value added score (but not a very high score on overall results). Their school does seem to focus on value-adding for children at all levels, they do push the higher achievers a lot as far as I can tell (my dc are only in the lower years).

The school doesn't have a great reputation (middle class parents in our area tend to avoid all the local comps like the plague) but my dc seem to be thriving happily.

Not that that can help the OP as I wouldn't judge a school just on value-added but it's certainly a good pointer, IMO.

TimeChild Tue 27-Nov-12 11:02:59

The key thing is to ensure that the value added for the school is over 1000 for all 3 levels of attainers. A school that focuses too much on one level by neglecting another is not well run, whichever level your dc are in.

As for Foundation level GCSEs, I don't think there is anything wrong with taking that if that is the appropriate level for that student. I do not like the way they are written off as not worth the paper.

safflower Tue 27-Nov-12 12:19:23

I am not saying they are written off TimeChild. I am saying that there are plenty of children who are perfectly capable of getting higher grades, yet the school plays safe and puts them into the foundation level because it keep them in the league tables.

TimeChild Tue 27-Nov-12 12:32:18

That is rather a sweeping statement if I may say so. My dc is 'only' doing Foundation Maths for GCSE. This was decided by the school. At foundation level she is a high C, in fact probably borderline B/C. After discussion with her, we fully support this decision of the school to enter her for Foundation level only. dd performs much better being top of a lower group than being bottom of a higher group. Yes, league tables may play a part in their decision, but often it may be for the benefit for the individual student concerned.

safflower Tue 27-Nov-12 13:21:17

I beg to differ. But I can see we could argue this back and forth forever. My point is, that of course some children are best off doing the foundation. One of my dc will no doubt be doing maths and english at foundation level which is right for him. There are plenty of schools who do play safe. They need their 5 A to C percentage, but if you look very closely at that, you will find a heck of a lot of foundation levels are taken. This information is not on the league tables. To get a good picture, IMO the percentage of foundation levels and higher levels a school put their children in for would give you a better picture than just the league tables.

lljkk Wed 28-Nov-12 15:48:15

The key thing is to ensure that the value added for the school is over 1000 for all 3 levels of attainers.

Only one of my six closest secondaries meets that criteria. It will cost > £500/yr in bus fares if DD goes there. I sometimes wonder what kind of areas you all live in. We live in an average-in-most-every-way kind of area.

TimeChild Wed 28-Nov-12 18:38:37

I'm just talking 'in principle' here, I'm not saying that my dcs attend schools of that calibre...

Shocked to hear that you will have to fork out such a lot in bus fares, here in the Big Smoke, at least the bus fares are free.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 28-Nov-12 18:42:42

Local grammar school here gets better results but a lower value added score than the comp.

My ex teacher of a mother says that's because the kids going to the grammar are already achieving so well that its harder to add value to them than it is to add value to a lower or average achieving child.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 28-Nov-12 18:44:31

I would visit both schools and see what your gut feeling is. I was very impressed on an open evening by one local school mainly due to the enthusiasm of the teaching staff. They seemed genuinely passionate about their subjects and the school.

I'm a believer in gut instinct.

Also talk to any parents with kids at the schools and see what they think.

mercibucket Wed 28-Nov-12 19:37:31

Visit and see

Tbh it depends on your child. Mine will prob go to the local not v good comp but I expect pretty much top grades from them regardless of teaching. Maybe because I am v out of touch. 'Back in the day' I just learned it all myself before the exams, never looked at my notes from school. I expect once Gove has finished, there will be no continuous assessment and it will be back to that system again

So until GCSE at least, just go for the best fit for your child

Interesting about breaking down the stats that way, too

mercibucket Wed 28-Nov-12 19:37:32

Visit and see

Tbh it depends on your child. Mine will prob go to the local not v good comp but I expect pretty much top grades from them regardless of teaching. Maybe because I am v out of touch. 'Back in the day' I just learned it all myself before the exams, never looked at my notes from school. I expect once Gove has finished, there will be no continuous assessment and it will be back to that system again

So until GCSE at least, just go for the best fit for your child

Interesting about breaking down the stats that way, too

BoffinMum Thu 29-Nov-12 07:57:44

I'm uncomfortable with schools settling for Foundation level GCSEs. I think with the right teaching children can almost always manage higher level GCSEs , and it's doing them a disservice to cap their grade.

TimeChild Thu 29-Nov-12 08:27:35

'I'm uncomfortable with schools settling for Foundation level GCSEs. I think with the right teaching children can almost always manage higher level GCSEs , and it's doing them a disservice to cap their grade. '

But what grade in the higher level GCSEs? Do you mean A-C or lower? I would rather that my dc got a secure C at Foundation for a subject that is not her forte and concentrated on getting Higher grades on others.

We are talking comprehensive education here so there are children at all levels of ability.

safflower Thu 29-Nov-12 10:26:08

If a child gets grade C for instance in English at foundation level, then an A level in the same subject is ruled out. The leap from a foundation to an A level is huge. That same child may want to do a career which requires an A Level in a core subject. Therefore at the age of 14/15 that child's future has already had doors closed on it.

Children move around quite alot with their grades at such a young age. Doing very well one term, not so well in the same subject the next. This is where it is very sad because that same child may have every 'click' into place during the final year of GCSE's and gain a passion for a subject, which they will not be able to take any further.

BoffinMum Thu 29-Nov-12 10:43:11

In a good school teachers would be supporting your daughter to get a safe C on the higher level examination. This is possible for almost all average and above average ability levels given the right teaching and support (she clearly is getting this support at home).

TimeChild Thu 29-Nov-12 11:04:34

I take your point safflower about going on to an A level for a core subject. In the case of dd, she would never in a million years would want to or be able to handle an A level in Maths! However, if she does foundation in maths, she will be able to focus on higher levels in English and Science and have a realistic chance of getting them.

I think what you are saying could be a general observation and every child should be guided to make sure that he/she makes a sensible (and realistic) choice that is right for him/her.

I also disagree with what you say about shutting a door on their future at 14/15. I am a firm believer in life-long education and think that it does not end at 18 or 21! There is nothing wrong in revisiting a subject later in your life. In fact I'm not that comfortable with the conveyor-belt type system we have in this country where children are expected to go from school to uni and career by the time they are 25. Life is not really like that (and all the richer for it!)

For the sake of those dc taking 'only' foundation level I wish parents would not refer to them as also runs.

TimeChild Thu 29-Nov-12 11:28:07

BoffinMum, my dc attends an ofsted outstanding comprehensive and apparently their way of banding the GCSE students was particularly praised. I believe they have been held up locally as an example of good practice.

The school's ethos is that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed and feel proud of their achievements. They have certainly achieved this by pushing their A* to C with english and maths percentage to nearly 80%. Not bad for a comprehensive. Of course in the mix are those with just foundation level C - is this such a bad thing?

safflower Thu 29-Nov-12 13:33:37

no of course it is not 'such a bad thing'. Do you know the percentage in the 80% who took foundation level? In some schools this could be up to 100%. This is what I am getting at. There could be quite a possibility that there were none or very few grade B to A*, in which case, the school could still be 'Ofsted outstanding', yet not be doing quite so well as prospective parents are led to believe. And this, after 11 years formal education is not so good.

All I am saying is don't believe what you read on the tin. Look inside, and very closely!

TimeChild Thu 29-Nov-12 14:01:42

safflower, you take a dim view of the comprehensive system!!

Definition of a comprehensive school is one where children of all abilities attend. It would be astonishing in a comprehensive for most/all of the cohort to be entered just for the foundation level.

In the case of the school I am talking about, for the latest 2012 results -

26% of all pupils achieved at least 5A*/ A grades at GCSE. 30 pupils achieved at least eight A*/A grades. That works out to just under 20% of the cohort.

24% of all grades were A*/A grades

One example does not prove anything but I think you will find that true comprehensives will have a significant proportion of the cohort sitting the higher levels.

safflower Thu 29-Nov-12 14:59:42

I speak from experience unfortunately.

DD -marvellous, marvellous marvellous at maths all the way up to the GCSE years. Prediction of A. Then we got the 'she is struggling slightly more likely to be B, this moved to C and their own words were to 'play it safe and ensure the C at all costs' and to do the foundation.

Err no thank you I said. She will do the higher. And she did. Got B.
Had I just listened to the school, she would have had a C at foundation. I was not happy. Local comp. Other parents did excatly the same. They all got B or above. Honestly, I was gobsmacked and have since looked further into this, and sadly it happens in a great many schools. I don't give a stuff about the league tables for this very reason. I give a stuff about my children achieving the highest grade they are able, be it foundation or higher.

A friend whose son went to another local comp was told B predictions for all core subjects in year 10. Only to open the exam results and got C at foundation level. This posed a huge problem for his college course as he needed a science and English B for the course. At no time was she told her son was taking foundation. Quite rightly she was furious. Her son was unaware that he could not get higher than C until it was too late.

All I am saying is don't believe everything you hear from the school. Which is why I reiterate that it is important to see what percentage of children are taking which level.

TimeChild Thu 29-Nov-12 16:15:26

Sorry to hear about your dd's story. Great that you had the sense to stick by your guns. Think it is a case of mother knows best wink

safflower Thu 29-Nov-12 16:28:19

Thank you. I didn't want to get into a tete a tete over it. I just want as many parents to know what to look out for. I wasn't even aware of foundation/higher level GCSE's when we first started out with secondary schools. I just thought it was all the same one exam. And am sure that great swathes of parents whose first borns are heading up the system are still unaware of the differences until sometimes it is too late.
So I make it my business (nosy old bint that I am) to keep telling folk! smile

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