Results And Tables
Results And Tables
Ralph Lucas (Editor, The Good Schools Guide) gives expert video advice on: Where can I get a copy of a school's exam results?; Where can I get a copy of the school's OFSTED report?; What are league tables? and more...
Where can I get a copy of a school's exam results?
The place to get Exam Results - schools are the best place to get comprehensive information about exam results for each and every pupil. These results will help you in finding out the best schools academically by comparing the results. There are websites and government sources that provides league tables, but the information provided is not comprehensive. In that case, the school is the best source to get the information.
What can a school's exam results tell me about how good it is?
Use exam results to prompt questions. They never provide answers. You can see exam results that look extremely good and it can just be because the children have been selected very heavily, or that they have all come from China and they get Chinese A-level with no difficulty at all. You can see exam results which look very bad which may, in fact, be a superb performance by a group of children who are finding life difficult. They focus you on particular areas of the school, particular aspects of the school that you should find out about when you visit it. That's what I use them for.
What is a prospectus?
A prospectus is a booklet which is produced, in the case of a state school, to a fairly regulation formula. In the case of a private school, to whatever their marketing director says will sell best. The school's prospectus provides basic information on what the school is, what it offers and what's going on there. It's a good basic information document. They tend to say much the same thing, but they're worth reading anyway. I take more time over the school magazine and other things which are produced on a voluntary basis. A prospectus is there to the facts: What date do you have to apply by? The school magazine is there for: What's the school feeling? What is the spirit of the place?
Where can I get a copy of a school's prospectus?
Just ask the school, there's nowhere else to get it, just ask the school. You can phone them up, e-mail them, most of them are on e-mail these days. You will get one by return post.
What is an OFSTED report?
All state schools are inspected supposedly every four years by the Office For Standards in Education, or OFSTED. They produce, these days, a fairly concise report which will tell you what they think of the school, and how they rate it. There's a table at the back showing how they rate each aspect of the school life and the things they think the school needs to do better. So it's a professional report. These people are teachers, professional educators who are going around. It is not looking at the way a school is, but it is looking at how a school operates as an educational establishment. It's an absolutely key document to look at and understand, because it is telling you something about a school that you can't get in any other way.
What can an OFSTED report tell me?
OFSTED reports give you a view on how a fellow professional sees that school operating. They are looking at the quality of the management of the school, the way in which it is looking after its pupils, the quality of the teaching and the level of expectations that it has for its pupils. Whether it is really doing what it should do to see those pupils through to a good future. It's very much not a parent's view. There will be many things that parents want to know that just don't seem to come on the OFSTED radar, but it tells you things that are fundamental to the operation of the school, and if you've got a school getting a bad OFSTED report, that is something to be careful of. If you've got a school getting a good OFSTED report, then that's at least halfway to knowing that you like it. It's telling you the school, within its own rights, is functioning well. It doesn't tell you whether it's the right school for your child, but says if it is the right school for your child, then it's a good school.
What are league tables?
The government produces league tables of data on schools every year. They are then picked up by newspapers and turned into tables ranked by performance on some particular criteria: the percentage of getting 5 A-C's on GCSE, the points of their A-Level, whatever the newspaper likes, and that will produce a ranking. It's not something to take too seriously. Schools at the top are often good schools, schools right at the bottom are often bad ones. But The Good Schools Guide has schools that are enormously low in the tables because, for instance, they are Steiner Schools, and they don't bother taking A-Levels until the children are eighteen. Therefore, they will tend to fall outside the scope of the tables, so you get things which are totally distorted. It's an interesting statistic, but don't pay too much attention to it.
What are post-16 tables?
Post-16 tables show what children have achieved by age 18 in the two years after GCSE and mostly by way of aid offers, but these days also incorporating the international baccalaureate and various vocational exams. They are all lumped in together and you are given a single point score, and it tells you roughly what sort of level children are achieving in that school. They give you an idea of how academic and how high achieving the school is, but there's so much lumped in there these days that it's quite difficult to know what they mean.
What are keystages?
Keystages are segments of the national curriculum. They are periods of years where a child is supposed to be taught a particular collection of facts, or a particular collection of skills so that they are then ready to move onto the next keystage that runs from then onwards. So it is a system of progression though school that is nationwide and means that children can transfer from one school to another one and expect to be able to slot in to what is being taught without a lot of disruption.
What is keystage 1?
Keystage 1 is the first level that you will encounter of school. It runs from age 5 to age 7 and is just the basic introduction to schooling, the basic skills, the socialization, the basic number and letter skills which you need to be able to address in the curriculum later on.
What is keystage 2?
Keystage 2 runs from age seven to the end of primary school at eleven, and is aimed at getting the child to basic numeracy and literacy and giving them some broader experience of science and of history, and of the world around them. But the focus is very much on numeracy and literacy, because unless you can handle number and language well, then you will be totally at sea when you get to secondary school because primary school is a much more caring and closed environment and you can get away in primary school without having these skills. In secondary school, you are much more on your own and unless you have got to level 4, which is the crucial level at the end of keystage 2, you are going to have a hard time in secondary school.
What is keystage 3?
Keystage 3 is a complete irrelevance. It runs from age 11 to age 14 and mostly consists of teaching children nothing much at the beginning of secondary school. It's one of the real problems in the English school system because it's not an examination focused in the way that the legislators are, and nor is it really broadening and providing a basis for children's education in the way that keystage 1 and 2 have been. In many schools, it's a wasted period. It can be used for an immense broadening of what the children's experience has been, but it tends not to be. It tends to be a time when children lose their trust in education, have to learn to find their own way because it's not focused.
What is keystage 4?
Keystage 4 is the run up to GCSE, the two GCSE years. It's the time when education gets serious again and you are focused on taking children through GCSE examinations. There is some prescription there. Children have to do English, have to do mathematics, have to be offered science, have to be allowed to do various other subjects. So there's some structure there, but you're beginning to get children breaking away and doing their own thing. So it's much more flexible than what's gone before, but it is also very purposeful, because you've got a real examination at the end of it.
What is 'value-added' and is it important?
It's a crucial measure for looking at how well a school is doing. It's a difficult measure to make and you will be presented with a figure which is just out of a black box, and you can't relate it to anything else. But certainly the government figures have been very carefully prepared and what they are telling you is, given these children coming into the bottom of a senior school or bottom of a primary school, are they doing as well as you would expect? They measure the difference between how well a child was achieving at the bottom and how well they've eventually achieved at the top. They'll always be a great spread, but on average, a good school should be doing better with children than you would expect. It's one way of off-setting the bias you might get in a school because the kids are bright, they're well-supported by their parents, whatever else in the background is there, which makes it easier for children to succeed. You can adjust for that and you can say, "Are we looking at a school which inspires and teaches well and gets more out of people than you have a right to expect?" It's a very good figure to look at. In many secondary schools in particular, you will also be able to look at their own value-added statistics and that may give you some feeling for which departments are doing well, but they're private and many schools won't show them to you. But they're worth seeing if you can get them.