League table pressures force schools to deny pupils places

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The Independent Online

Thousands of children could be denied places at secondary school or forced to miss a year because of pressure on headteachers to succeed in exam league tables.

Thousands of children could be denied places at secondary school or forced to miss a year because of pressure on headteachers to succeed in exam league tables.

Children who were kept back a year at primary school - either because they started school later than normal or because they repeated a year - are now being deemed "too old" to enter the first year of secondary school because they lower a school's ranking in the Government's league tables.

They are on the school roll but because they are not the "correct" age, their results count for nothing.

The problems have come to light in Barnet, north London, where at least 500 children in the wrong year group have been warned that they could be refused places at secondary schools unless they switch back into the correct age group. Educationalists and parents fear this could be repeated across the country as secondary schools and local education authorities try to get ahead in the league tables.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "This problem has arisen purely because the tables are age related. This is one of the stupidities of the current system. We have always argued that age-related tables should be dropped."

Families have already been advised that their children should go from the last year of primary school into the second year of secondary school. Many parents are furious and say it will disrupt children's education.

Richard Baker, 11, who was born on 12 August, could be forced to leave his classmates of the past seven years because he is considered too old to be taught with them - even though he is less than three weeks older than some of his fellow pupils. He was refused a place at Ashmole School, in Southgate, north London, but invited to reapply for the second year. Richard was allowed to spend an extra year at nursery as a four-year-old because he suffered from developmental problems.

His mother, Claire, has written to Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, asking him to intervene. "We are deeply upset that Richard has been singled out," she said. "We are certain that the reason for this sudden change ... is the Sats and GCSE results of children out of year are recorded as a zero and therefore have a negative impact on the results ... This is outrageous."

Lynne Hillan, whose cabinet portfolio at Barnet council includes education, said that the Tory administration had advised schools to put children into the correct year group because of the damage out-of-year pupils did to league table positions.

No one at Ashmole School was available for comment.

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