Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Signs of success
The coverage of the league tables today is littered with predictable claims of 'failure' across the system, doubtless stoked by coalition ministers anxious to exaggerate the scale of their task. But one simple figure stands out: there are now just 82 out of 3200 secondary schools in the entire country where fewer than 30% of pupils get five good GCSEs including English and Maths. In 1997, there were over 1600 such schools. In anybody's book, that ought to be a cause for celebration. And for Michael Gove, it should be too. Because a lot of that improvement took place as a result of Labour policies that he has wisely decided to continue - academies and the London Challenge approach of consultant heads helping others, together with tough floor targets (they were, it has to be said, also helped by extra resources, a part of the equation largely missing these days). It is plain daft for the press to label as failing any school that doesn't meet any target set after pupils sat their GCSEs. But the fact that the 30% floor target has dramatically cut those below that benchmark suggests that a 35% benchmark can also help shift the baseline. So, today is a sign that real reform can lead to real improvements, at least for many. That's the true lesson of today's league tables.