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Suffolk: Education chiefs fear county’s ranking in national GCSE table could fall even lower after ‘unfair’ changes to system

PUBLISHED: 16:38 08 July 2014 | UPDATED: 17:13 08 July 2014

The first GCSE results are being published

The first GCSE results are being published

Archant

Suffolk’s poor position in the national GCSE league table is in danger of falling even lower following an “unfair” shake-up of the result recording system, education chiefs have warned.

The county was ranked 137th out of 151 local authorities in England for GCSE results in 2013, when 54.6% of pupils achieved five or more A*-C grades.

It was a rise from 50.5% in 2012, but below the current national average of 61%.

But education officials have raised fears Suffolk could be the victim of a false “declining picture”, claiming the overhaul of the recording system, which compares the performance of counties, will unfairly affect the county due to it having a large number of students taking exams early.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “For several years, students have been able to take their GCSE early. This means that if they get the result they expected, they can then focus on other subjects for their final exams.

“If they don’t, they can re-sit them in the summer. The student’s best grade was recorded as part of the school’s, county’s and overall national results.

“However, changes to the way results are recorded, brought in from the end of September 2013, mean that if a student takes an ‘early entry’ exam, only that grade will be recorded in official figures – regardless of whether or not the student re-takes the exam and gets a better grade at a later date.

“Because of this change, any county that has a relatively high proportion of students taking early entry exams could see their results appear to drop, even if students are actually doing better.

“As some Suffolk schools have a large number of students taking exams early, some of the county’s educational professionals have raised concerns that official figures could falsely portray a declining picture.”

Sue Cook, Suffolk County Council’s director of children’s services, insisted students will not be affected by the change, saying: “The problem comes when schools, and the local authority, are judged against other areas.

“Put simply, the best results achieved following the hard work and dedication of the students and their teachers are unlikely to be fully reflected in the league tables.

“We recognise that this is national government policy but have serious concerns about the extent to which it will impact on Suffolk.”

Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, said the “unfair” league table may discourage some pupils from sitting early exams.

Madeleine Vigar, principal at Castle Manor Academy in Haverhill and chair of Suffolk Association of Secondary Head teachers (SASH), echoed concerns the national league table will not be an “accurate reflection” of the upcoming GCSE results.

She said: “Year 11 students in Suffolk schools have worked extremely hard this year. They have been ably supported by school leaders and teachers to achieve the very best that they can. Students’ final GCSE examination grades will indicate that they have made good and outstanding progress.

“SASH members find that the November examination results spur students on, giving them the confidence to aspire and progress further in their studies. How many people fail their driving test the first time and then go on to become excellent drivers?”

GCSE results are set to be released on August 21.

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