Our Year 11 students will return from half-term this month to sit their mock GCSE exams. In a school of academic ambition, they will be hoping to achieve the best results possible. On the face of it, they will not have to work very hard to beat the 0% we scored in the recent Department for Education league tables for the percentage of students achieving 5 A* to C grades, including English and Maths. Was our last Year 11 cohort as bad as that?
0% is a strange statistic since our actual results showed we had a 100% pass rate, with 93% gaining 5 A* to C grades (including English and Maths), a percentage that has been rising every year. Indeed, in 2015 over half the grades across all subjects were A*/A. More importantly, we had very high ‘value-added’, indicating that students performed well beyond nationally predicted expectations. In other words, on average our students, right across the ability range, did significantly better at AKS than they would have done had they attended another school. No surprise then that GCSE results at AKS are the best on the Fylde and some distance beyond.
As many might already know, the answer to this paradox lies in the fact that the Department for Education does not include International GCSEs in its figures. I wrote about this last year under a blog title ‘Bottom of the Table?’ Many of our Heads of Department judge that, for their subject, these IGCSEs are currently more academically rigorous. That our students achieve so well in these more challenging examinations says much about their hard work and ambition, as well as the quality of teaching and learning. At AKS we follow IGCSE for English, Maths, Science and Modern Foreign Languages. So, unless the DfE change their position, we will proudly score 0% in their tables next year too! As will Eton, Harrow and so many other independent schools. Of course the real value of IGCSEs is recognised by all, hence the vast majority of AKS leavers get into their first choice universities.
So good luck to our current Year 11 students approaching their mock exams. Remember the words of Michelangelo: ‘The greater danger is not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark’.