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Should league tables account for deprivation?

(17 Posts)
pixiepixel3 Thu 14-Jul-11 17:25:30

I believe this has been discussed in edication circles to some degree but hiw do people feel about the idea of calculating league tables based partly on academic attainment but comparing this with deprivation in the particular area. Though there are exceptions to every rule, it often goes that schools in privelged areas perform far better than those in more disadvantaged communities and the statistics bear this out. In Scotland for example, the county with highest average household income (where houses are extrotionate because people want to be in the catchment areas) top the league tables. Glasgow with some 80% of the poorest areas (sharing a border with aforementioned county with no green belt between) come bottom. And within Glasgow the school with lowest free school meal entitlement came at the top while highest free meals school came pretty much bottom.

I have heard various arguments about this. Of course we can not ignore the fact people in poorer areas have more barriers to success, both financial and support from parents and even peers (in some areas kids get bullied for working hard while in others there is a culture of being pushed to limits by parents and teachers). But we should also be careful having lower aspirations in poorer areas. Also families with high paying jobs are often working their rear ends off to fund living in a good catchment area or send DC to private schools and fund extra study and other activities that boost their self esteem and social skills.

So should league tables be done on a academic vs free meal ratio or similar, or do we just ignore other influences and take results as is?

ElbowFan Thu 14-Jul-11 18:58:06

I think it rather depends on what 'use' you feel that the league tables are.
It all started with comparing results, which schools got the highest results; gosh, in our area the Grammars did a lot better than the comps - no surprise there. Then they started taking other things in to account like, as you say free school meals, first language not being English etc, and called it 'contextual value added'. It was supposed to level the playing field so that schools who had lower achieving intake could still shine. It all started to get very complicated and I believe that the CVA aspect has been/will be dropped in favour of x levels progress in each key stage.
What help is any of this to anyone? As a parent of a prospective pupil it may tell you if the school has had good results in the past, but it will not tell you if the children are happy, if the staff are happy with the Head, if here is high turnover of staff etc.
My feeling is that results are only a small part of the story, and it depends on what you really want to know about a school to then compare it to others

noblegiraffe Thu 14-Jul-11 20:15:38

Contextual value added is an interesting one. I've had to explain to kids that yes, their GCSE FFT target will be lower than that for their mate because they are black. That black boys on average do worse than white ones and their targets are adjusted to reflect this. 'But Miss, that's racist!'. Yes, it is. But if black boys generally perform worse than their white counterparts - and they do for a myriad of socio-economic reasons - is it fair to set them the same targets and then deem them a failure when they don't meet them?

Gove says no, he says that we should have the same expectations of everybody. But is this realistic? Is it fair? Is saying 'You are expected to meet the same standards' going to mean that they do? Because under Gove's regime, schools full of poor kids are going to be deemed failing if they don't meet a minimum standard that will easily be achieved by rich kids with their tutors and more highly-educated parents.

maypole1 Thu 14-Jul-11 21:36:00

My sons black and I don't want any funny gigging with his grades thanks and FYI the lowest pro forming group in London is POOR WHITE BOYS not black boys

Sorry but its Utter shit I to ally agree with gove

We have a motto in our house leave your excuses at the door and aim high Amd labour allowed to many schools to use this and the fact they had poor students as a reason why they don't do well

noblegiraffe Thu 14-Jul-11 22:01:03

But having poor students is (to some extent) the reason they don't do as well as the schools with the rich kids and the tutors and the internet access and the enriching extra-curricular activities.

The school is but part of the influence on a child's achievement.

noblegiraffe Thu 14-Jul-11 22:03:15

btw maypole, there won't be any funny gigging with his grades. Just with the target that will be set for him by an external company based entirely on statistical analysis of the facts of his circumstances.

diabolo Thu 14-Jul-11 22:08:45

My sister often gets very angry as the FFT data presumes her son's will under achieve - poor mixed ethnic area, single parent etc etc.

Both have 10 A grade GCSE's, one is doing his A Levels and the other is in the 2nd year of PE/PGCE 4 year degree (predicted 2:1) and wants to work as a PT instructor in the Army, then go on to be a teacher after he has done his Army service.

I hate people who try to put us in boxes. I work in a school and I know that statistics matter, but they can be, and often are wrong!

StealthPolarBear Thu 14-Jul-11 22:13:35

But surely it's about fairness to the school. If schools take in groups which are statistically likely to underachieve (and I fully realise there are hundreds of exceptions) then they have done 'well' if they can get that group to a certain level which will be lower than the average accepted. Each child must be assessed on their own merits, but penalising the school for accepting disadvantaged groups will just lead to "good" schools and "sink" schools.

That said...out LA has recently got rid of special targets for LAC - the head said something very similar, these children should be doing as well as non-LAC and it;s up to the school to make sure that happens. No excuses to hide behind.

So I'm torn. Intereesting though.

wasabipeanut Thu 14-Jul-11 22:25:26

I have mixed feelings about this. I can understand that a school crammed with children with "motivated" parents will pull some good results. However, I cannot accept that a school should simply accept poor results because they take from a catchment with greater poverty. I think it's insulting to assume that poverty of aspiration necessarily accompanies material poverty.

I think Michael Gove is coming from the right place when he says that he wants to end the culture of schools justifying bad results with "oh but our pupils are poor." If anything entrenches social divisions it is this attitude. If education is your only hope then it is even more important that you achieve the necessary standards. Giving poorer kids lower targets just seems wrong. Sooner or later they will realise that they can't compete and that isn't fair.

maypole1 Fri 15-Jul-11 00:17:20

noblegiraffe which circumstances would that be I a married, we are both professionals my oh has two degrees and is due to do a masters, he has a tutor (private) no debut

And is one of the brightest in his class so what circumstances would that be unlike a white boy in his class whose dad came put of prison 3 months a go and is in a out of foster care

But they will make allowances for my son because he is black pah

My black son will be going to a outstanding state school its in the top 30% of the country and yes its in one of the poorest areas in the council and most children are not white they are in the minority

Its because the school is strict, nips small mister meaners in the bud expects parental involvement, has a zero tolerance to time off during term time, and won't except that because your not white of poor you can't do well they have 90% of 6th formers at uni

I am sick of shit heads and sits school using black children as a way to under preform especially when white poor boys do worst in London

Gove is spot on the only children who may find is difficult to rise above their circumstances is lac children

noblegiraffe Fri 15-Jul-11 07:24:11

maypole, I believe they use something like 20 different criteria to set the targets, including KS2 results, whether the child is on free school meals and whether they are in care (children in care tend to perform terribly at school, it's awful). So your son with his good post code and relatively well-off family probably would end up with a higher target than a child with the same KS2 results but in care. It's quite complicated.

Incidentally, I disagree with these FFT targets ever being shared with students. Schools should set their own targets based on their real life knowledge of the child in question. These targets are averages and should only be used to monitor the progress of a large group of children. My school, unfortunately, doesn't seem to understand this.

inkyfingers Fri 15-Jul-11 17:43:17

Social mobility won't change at all if we set low expectations for some pupils. It may not be fair that some kids come from higher-income homes with extras that help them achieve (nothing new), but no one is ever helped by differential expectations. More bright poor kids getting to good universities will happen when there is a level-playing field of expectations.

noblegiraffe Fri 15-Jul-11 18:27:11

Well, British kids are having their target grades 'lowered' under the current system because they are not Chinese - targets for Chinese students in English schools are set higher due to the fact that statistically as a group they achieve more than British students.

Are expectations for Brits then to be raised to those for Chinese students? Presumably if you're in favour of everyone having the same high expectations being made of them, we should all aim for the highest possible target for everyone.

Even though we might have an inkling from the Tiger Mother how they're achieved and it's nothing to do with the school?

senua Sat 16-Jul-11 07:54:42

We have a school near us that was in special measures and threatened with closure. The percentage of children getting 5 GCSEs inc Eng+Maths was 21%. It is not in the best of areas (40% FSM, attendance only 86% etc). Fast forward four years, and they recently got 74% 5-GCSEs and won an award for 'most improved' school .

The catchment has not changed but the headteacher has. He expected more. And he got it.

noblegiraffe Sat 16-Jul-11 08:53:02

Was that 74% 5 GCSEs including Maths and English? If so, that would be remarkable.

However, I suspect that it wasn't, and those figures include an awful lot of BTECs, and it was not merely through changing expectations, but also changing the curriculum.

That said, some schools are crap and can be improved. But I would be very surprised if they could be changed into the sort of high-achieving state schools you get in leafy suburbs.

And talking about high-achieving state schools in leafy suburbs - that would be the school I work at. Our GCSE results are consistently impressive, but when Ofsted looked at our contextual value added, we were shafted. We weren't pushing the kids at all and our curriculum was crap. These kids were getting good results because they were good kids, the school wasn't adding anything. We had a big overhaul of the curriculum and the school is better for it. Without that contextual value added, people would have just looked at the school and said 'what a good school, look at their results'.

My school is looking forward to Gove getting rid of the contextual value added because, like I said, the kids are good and meet any benchmarks on A*-C he cares to set for the country. And we won't need to try nearly as hard as we have to do now.

senua Sat 16-Jul-11 09:29:17

I was quoting figures from a Guardian article but have just checked on the Dfes website - yes, that's 74% for 5-Level 2(equiv GCSE at A*toC grades)-inc-Maths-&-Eng. I am sure that they must have played the system a bit (their EBacc is 6%) but that does not negate my point: that someone believed that disadvantaged kids could do better than 21% and made it happen.

I quite like the CVA figures, because they highlight schools that are coasting, but I also know that they can be misleading. On balance, I would rather that they were kept. I would prefer data, even if slightly flawed, to no data - the more the better. In my ideal world schools would publish all results, subject-by-subject and grade-by-grade, so you can see who is merely getting the kids to scrape the minimum necessary for league tables (a C grade) and who pushes for the best grades possible (so a good ratio of B, A and A*) or who inflates points scores with things like Critical Thinking or Gen Studies.

freerangeeggs Mon 18-Jul-11 21:39:21

Noblegiraffe, my school is the same. We get all the credit for having parents who are motivated and who raise happy, eager children.

My relative works in an inner city primary school. They regularly have children come into primary one who have never opened a book (they have to be taught how to hold one properly) and who don't know the names of shapes or colours. One little boy referred to pink as 'lipstick' and brown as 'dirt'.

The idea that such differences in starting points and home environments should not be taken into consideration is just stupid. Schools should not be punished for having deprived catchments.

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