Reading between the lines

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The Independent Online

Do ? Read the tables in the context of local knowledge about the children who go there. The tables reflect a school's intake as well as the quality of its teaching.

Do ? Read the tables in the context of local knowledge about the children who go there. The tables reflect a school's intake as well as the quality of its teaching.

? Remember that the top school in your area might not be the school for your children if they would struggle in a very academic atmosphere.

? Bear in mind schools taking pupils from a deprived area are doing well if they surpass the English average of just over 49 per cent of pupils achieving five or more A?-C grades at GCSE. Schools which draw pupils from the BMW belt should be well above this. The English average point score per candidate entered for two or more A or AS-levels is 18.5.

? Remember that any school which selects pupils - all grammars and many independents - should be getting almost all their pupils over the five good GCSE grades threshold. A-level scores offer important clues to the performance of these schools.

? Bear in mind these listings include the results of A-level General Studies which is not taken by some excellent state and independent schools which value other subjects more highly. These results may increase a school's score by five points or more.

? Remember that both the A-level and GCSE points scores reward schools where pupils take a high numberof subjects.

Don't ? Think that you can choose a school solely from the league tables. They give a very limited picture of a school and you should look at inspection reports and visit several schools before taking a decision.

? Forget that many independent schools and high-performing comprehensives and colleges insist on good GCSE grades for pupils starting in the sixth form. Others are prepared to take in pupils with much lower grades, which can lower the point score, even though the school is very good.

? Be misled by very high A-level results from schools or colleges entering only a small number of candidates. If a school only enters a very small number of able pupils for A-level, the results can be distorted. For example, one pupil achieving three A grades would clock up a score of 30 points. It gives you no indication of how that school or college would cope with a less able candidate.

? Turn your nose up at a school with poor results for one year because it doesn't mean much. The ability of a school's 15 and 16-year-olds may vary from year to year. Check to see how they have done in the past. Consistently good results and gradual improvement provide a better indication of calibre than a single year's results.

? Forget that only the results of pupils who were 15 at the start of the school year are included in the percentage of pupils achieving five A*-C grades or better. The scores don't take account of any subjects taken early. Independent schools complain because they often enter their brightest pupils early for exams.

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