New league table shows poor English and maths results

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The Independent Online

A new-style government exam league table next week will show a marked reduction in the number of teenagers obtaining five A* to C grade GCSE passes.

It will also reveal that more than 300,000 pupils this year have failed to achieve top-grade passes in maths and English.

Ministers insist that secondary schools must publish details of the percentage of pupils obtaining five top passes including maths and English. The new table will show that while 58 per cent of pupils achieve five top grade passes if all subjects are considered, the figure drops to about 45 per cent if those passes must include maths and English.

It will underline concerns voiced in a government report published yesterday which showed that thousands of children get "stuck" at the age of seven - and fail to show any improvement in maths and English until they leave primary school.

The measure was introduced after concerns that many schools were ignoring traditional subjects in an attempt to improve their league table position. The Independent revealed that nine of the 10 schools ranked as the most improved for GCSE passes had achieved their position by concentrating on vocational qualifications - deemed by exams watchdogs to be worth four GCSEs.

It meant that pupils could obtain five top-grade passes by, for instance, taking a General National Vocational Qualification in health and beauty care and top it up with just one GCSE pass.

Next week's league tables will still include the old measure - ranking schools on all subjects. But the Schools minister, Jim Knight is keen to spotlight schools' performance in maths and English.

By publishing both measures, he will argue, it will enable parents to see which schools have papered over the cracks in their performance in the three Rs - and achieved improvements solely through the use of vocational qualifications. In a speech yesterday, Mr Knight said the days when "success on the surface" could be used as "a pretext for complacency" were now gone.