England's school league tables: More meet government targets
- 23 January 2014
- From the section Education & Family
More of England's secondary schools are meeting baseline government targets on GCSEs, the latest league tables show.
A total of 154 state-funded schools out of about 3,200 are classed as under-performing - 61 fewer than last year.
Schools are said to be below target if fewer than 40% of pupils pass GCSEs including maths and English, with grades between an A* and a C, and pupils are not making enough progress.
Education Secretary Michael Gove says the figures are a credit to teachers.
The tables for GCSE level combine achievement in those qualifications with those from equivalent vocational ones.
But this year, the tables for students aged 16 and over are split between academic and vocational qualifications for the first time.
Ministers say parents had been confused by results from schools in the past and that some schools were hiding bad academic results behind good vocational ones and vice versa.
Performance data for more than 4,000 state and independent schools has been released by the government in England.
The figures are from qualifications taken by students last summer.
As a national average, six out of 10 pupils achieved five good GCSEs (A* to C grades) including maths and English - the minimum level expected by the government.
More students are achieving the English Baccalaureate - just under 23% of state school pupils - compared with 16% last year.
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This is a measure of pupils achieving A* to C grades in a range of subjects the government says is the core of a good education - English, maths, two science subjects, a language and either history or geography.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "These figures are a credit to the professionalism and hard work of teachers.
"Thanks to their efforts, the number of children taught in under-performing schools has fallen by almost 250,000 since 2010.
"This progress has been achieved at the same time as our EBacc has ensured many more young people are taking the core subjects which will most help them find a good job or go on to university."
The top school for GCSEs is Colyton Grammar School in Devon. The co-educational school gained the best results in England for the second year running.
The most improved school was St Thomas More Catholic School in north London. In 2010, 31% of its pupils achieved five GCSEs at grades A* to C, but in 2013, 91% did.
The top school for A-levels and other academic qualifications is Colchester Royal Grammar School, while the top one for advanced vocational qualifications is Archbishop Holgate's School, a Church of England academy in York.
As well as the vocational split, this year also sees the introduction of a new measure known as the "Best eight" - the average GCSE grade achieved by a school's pupils, in eight particular subjects, including maths and English.
The average grade is given as an A*, B, C or C+ for example, all the way down to U.
From 2017, this will be a key measure on which schools will be judged by the government, replacing the "five A* to C" benchmark, but this year it is only being given for information.
At a total of 81 schools, all eligible pupils achieved the government's minimum target of five GCSEs including English and maths at grades A* to C. Many of the top performers are selective state schools.
Many of the local authorities with the highest-performing schools at GCSE level are in the south of England. The authority with the lowest-performing schools is Knowsley, Merseyside, where more than half of pupils did not get five GCSES at A* to C including maths and English.
Blackpool, Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and Stoke-on-Trent also have fewer than half of their pupils making that grade.
England is the only part of the UK where data on schools is published by the government in a form that can be easily ranked.
Teaching unions are strongly opposed to the league tables, saying they do not give an accurate or fair picture of what a school is like and how it is performing.
They also believe they damage pupils' learning by encouraging teachers to "teach to the test" and give "perverse incentives" for them to concentrate on pupils at the borderline between C and D grades.
Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers says the league tables are "crude" and "potentially misleading".
"League tables are based on a narrow definition of pupil performance," she said.
"This makes it impossible to capture a school's contribution to pupils' wider education or to their social and personal development and fails to reflect the character, ethos and catchment area of a school."
Wales abolished their league tables in 2001, but recently brought in "banding", where schools are grouped into four categories, which take account of factors such as GCSE results, attendance and the number of children who have free school meals.
The Scottish government publishes individual annual exam pass rates for Scotland's schools, as does Northern Ireland's Department of Education. Some media organisations produce their own tables from the data.