Schools under scrutiny in crackdown on league table ‘gaming’

Faculties that push students into taking “GCSEs in karaoke” and courses in phrase processing to increase their league desk positions are to stand renewed scrutiny from the department for training and Ofsted inspectors. The DfE stated it becomes looking carefully at GCSE-equal qualifications, including the eu laptop using Licence (ECDL), which can be taught in as little as three days but is equal in the DfE’s league tables to a -year GCSE including history.

Entries to the ECDL – which requires pupils to apply Microsoft workplace software together with Excel and PowerPoint – have rocketed, with the range of qualifications awarded growing from fewer than 2,000 in 2014 to more than 30,000 a yr later. Even though the DfE has long passed considerable attempts to stamp out “tender options,” the strain of league tables has pushed colleges to enroll scholars in qualifications, including the ECDL or Trinity College London’s examination in “rock and pop” vocals.

The Trinity university London qualification requires no sight-reading or theory, contrary to TCL’s respected music certificates. It allows entrants to pick 3 songs, such as gentle mobile’s Tainted Love or Tammy Wynette’s Stand through Your man, in addition to tracks by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. One headteacher, who did no longer want to be recognized, stated: “that is a GCSE in karaoke, in effect, but if different schools are going to apply it, what choice do we have? It’s dog devour canine, and the DfE should now not have allowed this to remember for [league table] points.”

Schools

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With a few faculties now getting into complete 12 months organizations for the ECDL, headteachers backlash saying the qualification isn’t inside the first-rate pursuits of pupils, even though it allows improve a faculty’s league desk result. Tom Sherrington, the headteacher of Highbury Grove School in Islington, London, said: “This seems like a shortcut. It diminishes the entire machine via permitting in rogue equivalents like this. Is the ECDL equivalent to a two-year GCSE path in history or physics? No, every person can see that.”

But Sherrington stated that the stress on faculties to maintain their league desk positions meant that “if everyone else is doing it, it’s hard to be immune. I want the device to change so that we don’t have to try this.” A DfE source said the department had raised the issue of the ECDL with Ofqual, which is liable for regulating qualifications. The source said the ECDL and similar guides would be excluded from the DfE’s league tables from 2019, except they had been proved to be as robust as conventional GCSE subjects.

In the meantime, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director for training, said that schools getting into entire cohorts for the ECDL were threatened to be marked down in future Ofsted inspections. “If colleges are deciding on to do sure things that just get the points, instead of for the benefit of the children and their futures, we can take that into consideration and make their judgment as it should be,” Harford told the time’s instructional supplement (TES).

The DfE said: “we’re thrilled to pay attention. Ofsted is asking into this, and we can comply with up with the inspectorate. We have reformed the duty system, so only publications are counted. Our new development 8 measure should include center academic topics along with English, maths, technological know-how and a foreign language.” Entries to the ECDL soared after it was promoted by the PiXL club, a network of secondary colleges that has grown unexpectedly in the latest years as nearby authorities have shrunk insignificance.

PiXL club members acquired discounts on coming into pupils for the ECDL, and an email from PiXL to extra than 1,000 secondary schools stated students would be prepared for the computer-based test in “3 or 4 in-depth days”. A DfE source said: “We assume all faculties to help students pick subjects to help them go on to achieve life, and we would be extremely disappointed to hear of any corporation encouraging faculties to enter younger humans for publications simply to ‘recreation’ the system.”

Ofsted and PiXL are understood to be assembled next week to discuss the difficulty. PiXL did no longer reply to a request for comment. Still, Sir John Rowling, PiXL’s chair, informed the TES: “we’re wholeheartedly behind Ofqual and Ofsted in any work they do to locate individuals who are abusing the gadget.” An Ofqual spokesman stated: “Ofqual’s position is to adjust qualifications to make certain their validity. College students’ qualifications selections are a count number for them and their schools, even as league tables are a count number for the DfE.”

Prof Alan Smithers of Buckingham university stated: “you can’t blame the schools. They’re playing to the guidelines to reveal themselves inside the nice viable light. It’s far for the DfE if it desires to maintain faculties to account on this way, to frame the Attainment 8 and progress eight measures so that they handiest include treasured qualifications.”