Headteachers are claiming that the way England’s secondary school league tables are now devised is stigmatising schools in white working class areas unfairly.
The heads say that the format is ‘toxic’ for those schools with few English-speaking pupils and high levels of deprivation.
They add that these disenfranchised communities will become more disillusioned if their schools are blamed unfairly.
However, the Department for Education says that the revised rankings are now fairer.
The ASCL union leader Geoff Barton says that league table changes have been welcomed as an improvement but there are patterns emerging which means ‘it’s time to look again at how they are compiled’ and the union is expecting talks with the DfE.
Results will be used for the next school league tables
With thousands of teenagers undertaking their GCSE exams, their results will be used for the next school league tables.
But now heads in schools in the North West of England say that the measure for comparing between schools, it’s known as Progress 8, is skewed against those schools that are serving deprived white communities.
The principle of Manchester Enterprise Academy, James Eldon, said: “If it was another ethnic group at the bottom, then people would be unsettled.”
The academy has 90% of its GCSEs students eligible for free school meals.
He added: “But since it’s the white working class, it’s less controversial somehow.”
Warning of growing disillusionment within communities
He is now warning of growing disillusionment within communities that already feel disenfranchised and socially isolated.
Official figures highlight that white working class boys have the lowest rate of entry to university of any other group monitored.
Mr Eldon says that while the new league table measurements were introduced with good intentions, there are unintended consequences.
He highlights that Progress 8 was introduced to move beyond the comparison of final exam results and instead measure pupil progress between their primary school and taking GCSEs.
The idea was that the tables would be fairer and would measure those who started secondary school from a low base on how much progress had been made.
League tables do not take deprivation into account
The head of Wigan’s Hindley High School Ian Butterfield, also highlights that the new league tables do not take deprivation into account.
He says that those schools with pupils in deprived areas make less progress when in secondary school and will be given a negative score in their league tables.
Mr Butterfield says that the winners in the new system are likely to be more affluent schools where pupils make better progress on average than those who have English as an additional language (EAL).
He says that for schools in the north-east and north-west that are in white working class areas and with few EAL pupils means it’s nearly impossible for the schools not to have a negative scores.
Mr Butterfield warns that the league tables are not measuring the achievements of schools but instead are describing the demographic of the school intake.
The concerns of Headteachers have been underlined by research carried out by Dr Terry Wrigley from the University of Northumbria whose research was conducted for the National Education Union.
He says that nearly twice as many schools are below the minimum floor standard, when compared with the England’s national average.
He said: “Poorer areas are being penalised unfairly and this is not complacency or special pleading.”