First Word on League Tables

The purpose of this week’s article may seem a rather strange one: to explain why we will not be top of league tables this year. I have thought hard about when to discuss this issue and I think that now, before most examinations have been sat, is probably the best time. Writing the piece later in the summer might lead to the misleading conclusion that exam papers have been difficult and that I was therefore making the comments ‘just in case’ results did not go as well as expected.

I suppose it tells its own story that it is necessary to explain why the school will not be top in the country next year. If the manager of my beloved Liverpool FC wrote a piece explaining that they would not be winning the premiership next year eyebrows would hardly be raised in surprise - there would be more shock that he felt it necessary to state the obvious in such a public manner. However, having come top in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and fourth in 2012 we have set the level of expectation very high. So why not top next year?

The simple explanation is that we have modified our curriculum in response to changing circumstances. In particular, universities have fed back to us that they prefer students to take AS level courses in mathematics during Year 12 before going on to take the A2 during Year 13. For this reason we have moved towards mathematics courses equivalent to an IGCSE during KS4, before moving on to AS and A2 study Post 16. Such a change generates fewer points in performance tables but offers students the best chance of gaining entrance to university courses. Hence we have made changes to maximise opportunities for our students - just as our earlier policy of taking early AS levels in mathematics enhanced opportunity within the educational context that existed at the time.

I have laboured this last point precisely because it demonstrates the inaccuracy of the suggestion that the school is driven by what will look good in league tables. I suppose it is inevitable that when you are consistently successful at something people assume that this is all that interests you. The real explanation for our success was that we moved to a personalised curriculum which offered students the chance to take different routes within different subjects. Not surprisingly this flexible curriculum interested and engaged pupils, leading to some very high results. However, our driver is always to offer courses that unlock the huge potential of our students. If taking a particular course of action will disadvantage us in league tables but increase opportunity for our pupils, then this is the direction in which we will go. For this reason we are very happy to give someone else a turn at being top of the league next year.

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