Education chiefs have announced a shake-up in the types of qualifications which will be included in national school league tables.
The changes come in the wake of Professor Alison Wolf’s review of vocational education.
The Government claims its changes to the league tables will “ensure schools focus on valued qualifications that make it easier for young people to enter good jobs or go on to higher education”.
Teaching uninion the NUT said league tables were being used to punish some schools and called for a fundamental reform of the system rather than the current proposals which it labelled “immaterial”.
All 14-16 qualifications currently count in performance tables whether or not they include external assessment. From 2014, only GCSEs and valued vocational qualifications that meet strict new criteria will be recognised in the tables. All these qualifications will count equally.
Schools will still be able to offer any qualification approved for 14- to 16-year-olds and teachers will still be able to use their professional judgement to offer the qualifications which they believe are right for their pupils. But only those listed by the Government as “rigorous” will count in league tables.
A consultation, to run until the end of September, will help define the rules governing “high-quality qualifications”.
The Govenment proposes that:
- All full-course GCSEs, established iGCSEs and AS levels should continue to count in the tables.
- Only qualifications that have been taught for at least two years with good levels of take-up among 14-16 year olds should be included.
- Only qualifications deemed to offer pupils progression into a broad range of qualifications post-16 rather than a limited number in one or two occupational areas be included.
- Only qualifications which are the size of a GCSE or bigger and have a substantial proportion of external assessment be included.
When the consultation ends a list of qualifications which will feature in future performance tables will be drawn up.
Professor Alison Wolf said: “Pupils need to acquire the broad skills which will enable them to progress in the short term, and to thrive over a lifetime of worldwide economic and industrial change.
“The Government needs to give schools every incentive possible to offer the programmes and qualifications which will achieve this end. In recent years though, schools have been under enormous pressure to pile up league table points. When any qualification under the English sun can contribute these, the pernicious effects are obvious.
“We need a single list of good qualifications which all have the same key structural characteristics, but cover a wide range of content. They need to be stretching, standardised, and to fit easily into a typical pupil’s programme and into a school’s overall timetable.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “Young people should be taking only the best qualifications in academic and vocational subjects that allow them to progress. Reforming the league tables so that they include only those qualifications that allow young people to maximise their potential is long overdue.”
But Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Yet again we see immaterial changes being made to league tables. What is needed is a fundamental reform of a system which is used more as punishment than a true reflection of what schools are doing rather than more superfluous change.
“It is obvious that these proposals will drive schools to focus on offering only those qualifications that count in League tables. Schools need to feel confident to offer qualifications that are right for the student rather than those that will reflect well in the tables.
“Qualifications have been used as a political football by both past and current governments to provide so-called evidence that their policies are working. They do not stop to consider all the work that has to be put in to meeting these constant changes. Time is needed for change to be embedded in schools and teaching needs to be refined in light of experience to maintain high quality teaching and learning.
“Different vocational qualifications meet the different needs of young people. If we are to truly value vocational training as the Government insists it does, then it needs to stop sending out such conflicting messages about the value of such courses”.