Schools caught up in the GCSE grade-fixing scandal have been told they will still miss minimum Government targets even if their pupils are awarded higher grades in resits.
Headteachers are incensed that the Department for Education (DfE) has indicated that the results of resits will not be included in official exam performance league tables, due out early in the new year.
The ruling is crucial to more than 140 schools who have missed the minimum target for GCSE passes as a result of the row over grade boundaries in English, which were changed at the last minute.
All 140 schools had been expected to reach the new higher target of 40 per cent of pupils getting five A* to C grade passes, including maths and English, but missed out after the C-grade boundary was raised less than a fortnight before the results were published.
As a result of missing the target, they are in danger of being failed by inspectors, closed outright or forced to become academies as a result of Education Secretary Michael Gove's drive to improve standards. The jobs of headteachers and senior managers could also be on the line.
"The performance tables are going to contain very flawed information," said Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). "This could cause enormous reputational damage to the schools concerned."
He added that ASCL was urging, in talks with Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, and the DfE to "go easy" with schools missing the minimum targets this year – especially if they had been in line to reach them before the grade boundaries were changed – and not judge schools on just one year's performance.
The ruling not to include the results of resits in official performance tables is understood to be logistical, in that the results will not be known until after the deadline for inclusion in the league tables has passed. However, Mr Lightman said: "This is an issue of major concern to headteachers and it is causing great anxiety for a number of our members."
Meanwhile, the deadline for exams regulator Ofqual and exam boards AQA and Edexcel to respond to the threat of legal action over the boundary changes expires tomorrow. Last Thursday they were given a week to respond to a threat by pupils, schools, local authorities and heads' organisations to seek a judicial review.
As a result of the grade boundary changes, pupils who sat the exam in January were awarded higher grades than those sitting it in June – even if they obtained the same marks. More than 2,300 students who sat the exam in Wales have been awarded higher grades after a decision by the Welsh Assembly.
A spokeswoman for the DfE said that in previous years the results of exams taken after the end of the previous academic year had not been included in the ensuing league tables.