Schools under scrutiny in crackdown on league table gaming

Schools that push pupils into taking “GCSEs in karaoke” and courses in word processing in an attempt to boost their league table positions are to face renewed scrutiny from the Department for Education and Ofsted inspectors.

The DfE said it was looking closely at GCSE-equivalent qualifications such as theEuropean Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), which can be taught in as little as three days but is equivalent in the DfE’s league tables to a two-year GCSE such as history.

Entries to the ECDL – which requires pupils to use Microsoft Office software such as Excel and PowerPoint – have rocketed, with the number of qualifications awarded rising from fewer than 2,000 in 2014 to more than 30,000 a year later.

Although the DfE has gone to considerable effort to stamp out “soft options”, the pressure of league tables has driven schools to enrol pupils in qualifications such as the ECDL or Trinity College London’s exam in “rock and pop” vocals.

The Trinity College London qualification requires no sight reading or theory, unlike TCL’s respected music certificates. It allows entrants to choose three songs, such as Soft Cell’s Tainted Love or Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man, as well as tracks by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.

Schools under scrutiny in crackdown on league table 'gaming'

One headteacher, who did not wish to be identified, said: “This is a GCSE in karaoke, in effect, but if other schools are going to use it what choice do we have? It’s dog eat dog, and the DfE should not have allowed this to count for [league table] points.”

With some schools now entering entire year groups for the ECDL, there has been a backlash from headteachers who say the qualification isn’t in the best interests of pupils, even if helps improve a school’s league table result.

Tom Sherrington, the headteacher of Highbury Grove school in Islington, London, said: “This feels like a shortcut. It diminishes the entire system by allowing in rogue equivalents like this. Is the ECDL equivalent to a two-year GCSE course in history or physics? No, anyone can see that.”

But Sherrington said the pressure on schools to maintain their league table positions meant that “if everyone else is doing it, it’s hard to be immune. I want the system to change so that we don’t have to do this.”

A DfE source said the department had raised the issue of the ECDL with Ofqual, which is responsible for regulating qualifications. The source said the ECDL and similar courses could be excluded from the DfE’s league tables from 2019 unless they were proved to be as robust as conventional GCSE subjects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *