Results that tell hidden stories

GCSE league tables can give a detailed picture of a school's strengths
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The Independent Online
Public attention may have focused on national league tables of GCSE results. But they are not the only or even the most useful GCSE results published for parents.The untold story about such information is how much better results are in some subje cts than in others within the same school. Such indicators can be crucial for parents and teenagers selecting GCSEs.

All English schools are obliged to publish a table showing boys' and girls' GCSE results separately in every subject. The simplified sample table here gives an idea of how the results appear.

The differences can be stark. Look at the pupils who took German and Spanish GCSE in this school (a real school whose overall "league table" score was exactly the national average). You will see that 30 of those who took German - almost two-thirds of theclass - achieved grades A-C. But only three of the youngsters doing Spanish GCSE managed grades A-C; while 15 of them - almost half the class - barely scraped across the passline with a grade G.

Of course, parents and pupils need to consider many factors when they choose GCSE subjects. They need to check that results are not a blip due to teacher illness or an unusual exam paper and they must beware of statistical over-simplification. You cannotcompare compulsory subjects with optional subjects; conscripts almost certainly work less hard than volunteers. Nor can you assume that the most A grades mean the best teachers - some subjects such as separate sciences or classics are restricted to the brightest candidates.

But, comparing like with like and taking into account the ability of your child in particular fields, you can make serious strategic decisions. For example, look at the choice between geography and history in this school. For the brightest youngsters, geography was a far better bet: 35 pupils obtained grades A and B, compared with nine As and Bs in history. But for youngsters struggling with humanities, the history teacher appears to have boosted many more over the passline and into grades F and G. Wher eas the geography teacher allowed 19 to come out with a worthless grade U.

Tick here if you're cross Ticked off? Then tick off Here is a quiz, and some advice, if you and a teacher just don't see eye to eye Is there a personality clash with your teacher? Is it worth dropping the subject? Try this quiz.

Tick the boxes that apply.

I've talked to my form/year tutor but nothing has changed..... o My parents have talked to the school but nothing has changed ..... o The problem affects more than half my lessons in the subject..... o It stops me speaking in discussions or answering questions..... o I feel anxious or miserable before each lesson in the subject..... o My work would honestly be better with another teacher..... o FEWER THAN THREE TICKS: This doesn't sound very serious. Try talking (again, if necessary) to your parents andan adult you trust at school before making a decision.

THREE OR FOUR TICKS: Have you or your parents talked to the school about this? If your school can't or won't help, you will have to decide whether to endure the problem. Remember, most adults work with someone they find difficult.

FIVE OR SIX TICKS: Clearly, this is making you unhappy. Tell your school, but if you really think things won't improve, get some careers advice on whether another subject could fit your abilities and career plans.