Thursday, 15 October 2009

These are genuinely good GCSE results

That half of all 15-year old students now get five good GCSEs including English and Maths - a 2.1% point increase on last year - should be a huge boost for the Government's secondary school reform programme.

To put that in some context, it means that 50% more pupils reach this standard - a much tougher one than the 5 GCSEs in any subject that nearly 70% now get - when it includes both English and Maths - than did so in 1997. If you doubt this is a tough target, look at the separate data for each of those basic subjects. It particularly reflects the strength of two key Government reform programmes, Academies and the National Challenge (together with earlier floor targets), but can also be attributed to the school-level targets associated with virtually all secondaries becoming specialist schools.

Traditionalists might reflect that with O levels, barely a quarter of pupils reached this standard and both English and Maths were not required in the measure. And the Conservatives should understand that their independent schools programme will not succeed in achieving a similar uplift unless it is accompanied by a tough accountability regime, where schools set challenging internal targets and the Government has minimum expectations like the National Challenge.

Today's results are a reflection of the genuine transformation for the better that has occurred in secondary schools and their culture. It should be a cause for celebration. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

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