Grammars lag behind in new school tables

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The Independent Online

Comprehensives do better than grammar schools in getting the best out of their pupils in the run-up to GCSEs, new government exam league tables will show.

Comprehensives do better than grammar schools in getting the best out of their pupils in the run-up to GCSEs, new government exam league tables will show.

Non-selective schools are set to top a new "value added" table listing the schools that improve their pupils' performance the most.

The table, to be published by the Department for Education and Skills this week, looks at what GCSE results could be expected of 14-year-olds after they take their national curriculum tests - and compares that with actual performance.

It will hearten anti-grammar school campaigners who urged caution when an earlier "value-added" table showed grammars did most to improve their pupils' performance in the first three years of secondary school education.

The results follow a study by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which showed that, whereas comprehensive schools improved their pupils' expected performance between 14 and 16, grammar schools "performed slightly worse" than expected.

The research, for the National Audit Office, showed that - on average - grammar schools had a negative rating of -1.04 (the equivalent of each pupil dropping a grade in one subject). The Government's new specialist schools fared best with a plus factor of 0.84 (just less than one higher grade for every pupil).

Union leaders say the findings are a vote of confidence in the quality of comprehensive teachers who strive to get the best out of their pupils. But Professor Alan Smithers, head of Liverpool University's centre for education and employment, argued: "It could be that the selective schools make so much progress in the first three years of secondary schooling that there is little for them to build on."

The conflicting messages from the two "value-added" tables will fuel calls for a single measure of progress from the age of 11 to GCSE-level.

* Most of the country's top independent schools will offer the International Baccalaureate to their sixth-formers if the Government goes ahead with plans for a radical shake-up of the exam system.

Two top-performing private schools are already considering offering it alongside A-levels. Many others will follow suit if the Government backs plans to introduce a new over-arching diploma to replace the existing system, according to Martin Stephen, the head of Manchester Grammar School who will take over at St Paul's Boys' School in London later this year.

Many are reluctant to see the adoption of the diploma - dubbed an English baccalaureate - with its compulsory elements of literacy, numeracy and information technology. "There is a danger of it becoming a bit of a dog's dinner," warned Dr Stephen. "There is a real baccalaureate that could be offered - the International Baccalaureate. Why do you need an English one?"

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