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Minister praises pupils for ‘value added’ exam results
WHEN a head teacher gets a letter from the schools minister, it can cause a shudder.
But for Cooper School in Bicester, a letter from David Laws, the Minister of State for Schools, was cause to celebrate.
The Churchill Road school has come top in what officials call the new similar schools performance table for 2012, according to the Department for Education.
The rating shows the school has finished on the top of the pile for what teachers call value-added – a measure that marks how much improvement pupils make in their time at school.
Schools are grouped according to results in 11-year-olds’ tests, and the progress made five years later when they complete GCSEs.
Cooper was top of its group when compared with 55 other schools across the country.
In his letter, Mr Laws praised the school for its “excellent performance”.
He said: “Your school stood out in two ways. First, you were ranked number one in your table.
“Second, over 10 per cent more of your pupils achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths than is typical of a school with your intake.
“This is a fantastic achievement that you should be very proud of.”
Headteacher Ben Baxter said: “When you open something from the DfE, you are not kind of sure what it’s going to be.
“I’m delighted with the recognition, particularly as it’s for the value added measure, which in many ways is the fairest measure.
“Value added is looking at the progress a school makes with students and that is a fairer measure than academic attainment.”
The figures relate to pupils who started at the school in 2007 and took GCSEs last summer.
Chairman of the governors Michael Waine said he was “thrilled” but took a swipe at school inspectors Ofsted who downgraded the school from outstanding to good in May this year.
He said: “The thing that’s incredible is when Ofsted came to the school they had all this data. “Senior staff and governors pointed them to look at it but they couldn’t see it.
“No matter what Ofsted said, this school offers an excellent education. “The school shows what can be achieved in terms of aspiration and real expectations.”
In recent years, the school has been consistently in the top 25 per cent in the value added score. Its 2012 rating was 1,014, while the national average is 1,000.
When Mr Baxter took over as head in 2005, its value added measure was 975, and the school was in the bottom 20 per cent.
Ewelme Primary School, and St James Church of England School, in Hanney, both Oxfordshire, also received letters from Mr Laws praising them for results.
VALUE ADDED - WHAT IT MEANS
- It indicates how well a school has brought on pupils from one test level to another.
- Each pupil's performance in tests is compared with the average performance of all pupils nationally who had a similar performance at the previous test level
- Someone who is clever to start with is compared with other clever children – so the result does not depend on how well they do in outright terms, but how much they have improved, whatever their ability.
- This means a special school for pupils with learning difficulties can be compared with a more academic grammar school.
- Special schools, small and giving students intensive support, can score highly on value added.
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