School league tables should focus on more than just exam results, says exam board chief

Tuesday 16 Jul 2013

Andrew Hall, Chief Executive of AQA, told the Westminster Education Forum today that schools' performance should be judged on more than just exam results.

Mr Hall said:

"The school accountability system should recognise schools that achieve good levels of attainment and progress for all their pupils and minimise the distorting effects, caused by the present emphasis on the C/D grade threshold. It should encourage a broad and balanced curriculum, and encompass those important facets of education that cannot be assessed through exams.

"The Government has rightly recognised the educational distortion that can result from the current 5 A*-C threshold measure, however, the proposed new threshold measure – a pass in English and Maths – will continue to exert the same pressure on schools. A floor standard comprising multiple, coordinated measures – of which the threshold was just one – would help to reduce the over-emphasis on this measure. Including a broad measure such as the number of NEETs (for example, one year after leaving school) in the floor standard could be very powerful, especially in light of the raising of the participation age. This would provide a positive incentive for schools to do the best for every pupil and help ensure they have the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to progress and stay in further education or work.

"The advantage of this kind of measure is that it does not exist in isolation from academic performance – success in exams would be central to success on a destination measure such as NEET. But exams are not the only element of a child's education needed to maximise their chances of successful progression. A well-designed destination measure could ensure that schools place a high priority on academic success but are also rewarded for the other aspects of the education they provide. This could provide a further emphasis on those pupils who are often left behind in the current system, to ensure schools are focusing on both their academic achievement and their development of important non-academic skills.

"There is also some debate currently about creating a new sample reference test to provide a national picture of school performance. This would have the advantage of not being subject to the same pressures as school-level measures, however it is vital that serious consideration is given to getting this right. The reason why international tests like PISA are run every three years is to ensure you get a meaningful indication of performance over time. There's a risk that the potential margin of error in an assessment like this may be greater than any actual change in performance in any given year. So we need to ensure that whatever is put in place provides an accurate picture of performance that both the public and the politicians can trust."

You can see our latest thinking on school accountability and also read our response to the Department for Education consultation on the secondary school accountability system that is used to judge the performance of schools.