19

The Sedbergh View….on League Tables

I am occasionally asked about the value of League Tables and where Sedbergh features. The answer to the latter question is more straight-forward than to the former.

Do League Tables have value?

The question whether League Tables have value is determined by the person who reads them and in common with any set of measurements it is important to understand what they show. If the reader values what League Tables measure, then they have value. 

When considered as a whole, a school’s position in the League Tables is the product of its selectivity, its balance of educational priorities and the strategies used to enhance its position. It follows that they are likely to be useful to a parent who has access to a number of different schools and who is seeking a school which is defined solely by its academic success. The League Table will be less informative to a parent who may seek the benefits of broader education and who values the development of the character and personality of their child alongside academic attainment. 

The first League Table was published by the Telegraph in 1966 and they became important in the mid 1990s. As they gained importance Schools developed strategies to enhance their position. This includes asking pupils to leave school after GCSE or midway through A levels if they have not reached a certain threshold. In some cases, schools have developed subsidiary organisations so they can stream pupils according to their ability and thereby enhance the position of the core organisation. These are some of the unintended side-effects of the League Tables. 


Perhaps the best assessment is that they provide an insight into a School and may be a starting point for discussion. Quite small difference in percentage points will lead to large variations in position that will be of no significance to an individual pupil. All schools are able to measure how well their pupils perform in relation to their individual ability and other Schools. This Value-Added measure is more relevant and may be more interesting to a parent and pupil.  

Sedbergh’s absence from League Tables 

1 - Sedbergh does not provide information  for League Tables which fail to reflect the unique character and value of a Sedbergh education. Ours is a broad education which properly embraces academia, the arts and sports as well as a social and spiritual education. 

To use an Olympic analogy, League Tables are the equivalent of awarding medals for the heptathlon based solely on results in the 800 metres race. 

2 - Durham University demonstrated how the level of difficulty of A levels varies by two grades between subjects (SCORE Report, July 2008). Happily universities recognise this even if League Tables do not so that the Russell Group, the most selective universities in Britain, identify 12 “facilitating subjects” to which they give greater credit than other less rigorous subjects. 

The breadth of subjects offered at different Schools and the variability of Exam Boards makes this a significant problem. 

For both these reasons we do not provide information to the media for League Tables. 

Measures of Sedbergh’s academic performance

None of the foregoing helps a parent determine how strong the academic provision at Sedbergh may be. 

In the first instance our intake is modestly selective. Our average ability profile sits close to the 40th centile of the national population and the range extends from the top 5% of the population to the 60th centile. We respond to this range of ability by using distinct sets in subjects from Year 9 and thereby group pupils according to ability. This ensures that pupils are taught at an appropriate level and with proper ambition. 

We measure “Added Value” for every level of ability and many sub-groups. Yet even this measure creates problems because pupils who are predicted A* grades cannot excede their predictions and cannot score Added Value. Because of this ceiling, our top set only gains 0.25 grades of Added Value despite recording 82% A & A* grades at GCSE (2016). By contrast, Set 6 gained an average of 0.7 grades of Added Value in every GCSE by comparison to similar schools. Individual pupils may gain as much as 1.4 grades improvement in every GCSE by comparision to their intial predictions. 


A different insight into the academic credentials of the School are the universities at which pupils gain places. In 2016, 87% of pupils who applied to university gained places at their preferred institution immediately on receipt of results, 52% gained places at Russell Group Universities. The full range of universities can be found at http://www.sedberghschool.org/senior/Explore-Sedbergh/University-Destinations-Degree-Choices

Sedbergh Education

Sedbergh School does not operate a ‘one style fits all’ policy - each pupil’s needs are assessed individually and arrangements made to meet their specific requirements. Each pupil has a dedicated tutor who is responsible for their academic development. The tutor monitors their progress, liaising between subject teachers, Housemasters, Housemistresses and parents.  Almost all staff live on site which provides plenty of time for extra lessons and tutorials.

Beyond the classroom a vast range of opportunities give Sedberghians the edge when it comes to competing for places at the top universities and employment. Their personal statements and references are full of comments about community service, charity work and fundraising, expeditions, teamwork, responsibility and a host of other relevant experiences. 

Alongside an outstanding senior school education, Sedbergh prepares its pupils for interesting lives.  

Andrew Fleck
Headmaster
September 2016

Posted in: Headmaster's Blog

Return