Why do some independent schools absent themselves from league tables and what is "value added"? Many parents will be using tables to evaluate the schools present at the Independent Schools Show. With this in mind, we have provided this guide to league tables and explain why respected voices warn against taking them too literally.
Adding life-long value
The beneficial effects of an independent school education are life-long for all pupils. As well as being far more likely to win Oxbridge places, pupils have a head start in sports, drama, music and are hugely well-represented in business, the top professions, in parliament and government.
The Independent Schools Show is the best possible place to get an overview of the system and find the right school for your child. You will be able to meet and hear from some of highest performers in the sector.
Which League Tables?
Tables collecting GCSE results were first introduced in 1994 and they have become a popular tool for comparing schools. However the Good Schools Guide says they have ‘caused a lot of agony and misunderstanding’ and some top schools are branding them as ‘nonsense’. Clearly league tables have become a thorny topic.
Winners vary according to the source, with every newspaper using a different set of criteria. The tables compiled by the Independent Schools Council and published by The Daily Telegraph are reliable and up-to-date, but some of the top schools boycott this list. The Best Schools list, although a year behind, is comprehensive and includes league tables for IB schools and Scottish Highers. The Guardian tables enable easy comparison between state and independent schools.
Finding the right school and winning places
Things to bear in mind when using the tables to steer your choices:
- The top tier academic schools who religiously feature at the top of these tables are highly selective in their intake.
- At the Independent Schools Show the high-performing schools will be on hand, exhibiting and speaking. If your child is highly academic come and find out about the entrance requirements for these institutions.
- You might also want to talk to the exhibiting tuition companies; tutoring can seriously improve your child’s chances of gaining entry or winning a scholarship.
- Given the high calibre of students these schools appeal to, it is important to ask yourself whether they provide the right environment for your child to learn in. Be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of your child.
If your child is not in the top 5% aged 11 or 13 do not worry. The independent sector has schools which cater for all abilities and attains far better results than the state system. In fact some of the best teaching and the most remarkable results are achieved in schools that are non-selective.
Independent Schools Council research shows that:
- More than half of independent school entries are awarded either A* or A grade at A-level.
- A typical ISC student achieved 2 A*s and 7 As at GCSE.
In fact to properly assess all schools you need to be thinking not just about results, but also about value added.
What is Value Added?
This is a statistical measure designed to show how well a school has helped its pupils progress since they arrived from primary/prep school. It is calculated by assessing pupils' best eight GCSEs and so covers a range of their achievements. An average is then calculated to give a score for the school. A score of 1,000 is the national average, so anything above that score is regarded as good.
The Department of Education notes that “value added measures are intended to allow fairer comparisons between schools with different pupil intakes.” Independent Schools do not feature in the Department’s lists but a useful league table can be found here:
- Top Value Added Boarding Schools 2010 PrivateSchools.co.uk
The rounded education offered by boarding schools means they always do particularly well. Hilary Moriarty explains why here. Skills developed outside of the academic spectrum are a huge part of the ‘value added’ by independent schools: sport develops team work, drama enhances communication skills and activities such as Young Enterprise encourage leadership.
This ‘value added’ can start far earlier than you may think. If your child is struggling at a London school, a boarding prep school could be a remarkable opportunity for them to re-build confidence, develop study skills and start to enjoy learning again.
The top value added schools are all exhibiting at the Independent Schools Show.