Reducing education to a single number

A few nights ago, I was watching the BBC’s “This Week” and getting more and more annoyed about the comparison that was being made between state and private education and their respective A-level results.

In the end, it doesn’t do justice to any school to reduce their results to a single measure, and A/AS-level results can never be the only measure of a good secondary education.

But if that’s the game we’re playing, here is another ‘single measure’ from Hampshire.

Our local state 6th form college, Peter Symonds, helps more young people get through A/AS-levels with a higher average A/AS points score than every single independent school in Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight combined.

Let’s just say that again: one state school – on its own – outperforms the independent sector for the whole of Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight – in terms of number of students going through A/AS level and the average A/AS points scores they achieve.

Average points scores are here on the BBC website.

Just to give the exact figures, there were 1,247 young people at Peter Symonds finishing A/AS studies with an average points score of 1025.5.

By contrast, 944 young people finished A/AS studies in all the independent schools in Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton and the Isle of Wight with an average A/AS average points score of 901.1.

Of course, it can never do full justice to the education provided by a single school to reduce their results to raw numbers – and a single figure. Here in Winchester, St Swithun’s, Winchester College and Peter Symonds all offer exceptional sixth form education.

As a further example of how numbers can mislead, at Winchester College, many of the students used to take a proportion of their AS levels early, which means those results do not count in the league tables, depressing the school’s overall reported scores.

This doesn’t change the overall conclusions for Hampshire, but it’s another example of the idiocy of assessing a system based on one or other number.

More figures than you ever thought you wanted on the DCSF website.

PS: Winchester College is in the process of moving to Cambridge Pre-U, which will make purely numerical comparisons even more pointless.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Reducing education to a single number

  1. j boulay says:

    the distortion of winchester college’s results has been long-standing. most students took/tak a vast number of GCSEs and A-Levels early, sometimes in November as well rather than in the summer session.

    the result is often that you end up with a figure for a student for league table reasons that has a student at winchester with less than 5 A-C grade GCSEs when the reality was often that he had taken 4 GCSEs, 4 AS levels and an A-Level in the summer.

    In my experience I was never aware of anyone getting below a C grade GCSE and yet it would not be reflected in the tables due to the above example of distortions.

    league tables are simply useless – you will never be able to sort out the wheat from the chaff by a simple statistical presentation.

    if you really want to judge schools’ performances ask the top universities where their most impressive candidates are educated each year!!

Get in Touch

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.