April 2011
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GCSE history, e-bacc, and subject league tables. Where will it end?

So we now learn from the new league tables that in as many as 175 state schools, not one pupil was entered for all five of the traditional subjects counted in the new measure. In 70 schools no students were entered for history and twice that number were not entered for geography. We are told that parents will see the results subject-by-subject. Will that help our cause? Probably. In the past it was really difficult for parents to learn anything useful about the health of history in a school unles they spent a long time comparing tables of stats. Even then there were the pesky residuals to take into account-not that anyone ever did, because they didn’t know about them. It was the elephant in the room. Results looked good in history in some schools, only because they entered those students who they knew would do well. There was no way of judging the value that the history department had added.

So will this new system of subject league tables improve things? Well it might. What I hope is that we will now get a level playing field when it comes to residuals. Those subjects where students find it harder to get an A*-C in than in others, e.g. history, must be statistically adjusted upwards. That way, parents can make sensible comparions. It still doesn’y address the value added dimension, but I’d settle for the level playing field first!

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