Education Secretary Michael Gove's plans to reform exam league tables are in danger of making a “serious mistake”, an influential Conservative backbench MP says today.
Graham Stuart, chairman of the Commons select committee on education, argues they run the risk of perpetuating the concerns of the present system - with too much concentration on borderline C/D grade candidates in maths and English.
Under the plans, Mr Gove proposes scrapping the main measure by which schools are ranked - five A* to C grade passes including maths and English.
Instead, there would be a new threshold measure - listing the percentage of pupils gaining top grade passes in English and maths plus a new measure showing pupils' progress in eight subject areas.
However, Mr Stuart argued: “Retaining a threshold measure based on the percentage of pupils achieving a C grade in English and maths would be a serious mistake.”
He was speaking to coincide with the publication of a report from the liberal think-tank CentreForum which warns that the new threshold measure “will create the same perverse incentive measures as the existing five A* to C grade measure”.
The report adds the existing measure has been “widely condemned on the grounds that it encourages schools to focus on pupils at the C/D borderline at the expense of everybody else” - thus ignoring the bottom 20 per cent who are unlikely to get a C grade pass.
Instead, it wants to strengthen the progress measure - by giving double weighting to pupils' improvements in maths and English.
Author of the report Chris Paterson said: “Getting the measure that drives league tables right could be the single most important education reform of the Coalition government.
”A progress measure allows a fair comparison between schools with very different intakes. It also drives an equal focus on every pupil.
“Retaining a threshold measure, however, will continue to hurt those at the bottom, diverting attention away from those who need it most - the underperforming 'tail'.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We agree with CentreForum that the C/D threshold can create perverse incentives and lead to gaming. Our consultation proposals were designed to minimise this behaviour and encourage high achievement across the board.
”We are currently considering all consultation responses and will publish our final policy in the autumn.“