St Peter's School
League tables and how to use them
League tables for schools are baffling. No two tables measure the same thing, and schools naturally choose to highlight those in which they perform best, but often without giving any context that might make them useful to parents.
To help parents, we have put together the following guide to help you understand league tables, and highlighting some of the areas to look out for.
How does St Peter’s measure up?
We perform very well in league tables, and certainly outperform all other schools in York and the surrounding areas on the most significant measures. However, we think that these tables are often presented in a misleading and unhelpful way, and we therefore choose not to publicise our position in these tables even though we generally rank highly in them.
We would strongly advise that you check our results against other schools that you may be considering.
Key results for St Peter’s are:
A-Level: 82% of all A-levels were passed at A*-B in 2015, and the average for our pupils is AAA, the standard requirement for entry to Russell Group universities.
GCSE: 92% of all GCSEs were passed at A*-B in 2015. Seventy three per cent of all our passes were at A* or A grade.
Click here for full results information.
Using league tables
Establish what a league table is measuring
Before taking any league table into account, be sure you understand exactly what it is measuring, and consider whether than measure is one that is relevant to you, and to the needs of your child. Tables often give measurements in a variety of ways and it is not uncommon to see several different schools individually proclaim themselves to be “top” in one region on the basis of the same table.
Very few league tables provide any information about each school’s selection policy or catchment area, the type of schools measured (and how they differ from each other), whether the schools involved prevent weaker pupils from sitting exams, or any other background information that may be affecting the results.
- Points. Among other measures, Department for Education tables give a figure for the number of points gained, per pupil and per entry (see below for the difference between pupils and entries). These tables calculate a certain points score for various different qualifications, such as the IB, Cambridge Pre-U and A Level. However, these qualifications are not weighted quite equally when you examine the grades that produce them, so the comparison is misleading. A points score of 32 at IB, for example, equates to 1089 points, while A*AA at A Level equals 840. However, while A*AA is likely to mean an Oxbridge offer, a points score of 32 at IB certainly would not – elite universities are likely to seek a score of 39 or more, equating to 1329 points. A high points score per pupil may be impressive in a table, but it does not necessarily translate into good results or university offers.
- UCAS points. Although not a league table, UCAS publishes its own tariff of points, similar to the Department for Education but using a different scoring system. Again, there are some anomalies in the scoring used - a score of A*AA at A-Level would achieve 380 points, while a score of BBBCC would achieve 460, but there is no question which set of results a good university would prefer to see. Most universities use grades rather than points.
- % pass rate at certain grades. These give an indication of the proportion of exams at that school passed at each grade. You might see tables that rank schools on the proportion of exams passed at A*/A, at A*-B, or A*-C. These tables may be more useful when looking ahead to future university entry because they are measuring actual grades in the same way that a university would.
There are other tables in existence, for example, the Daily Telegraph publishes a table that measures a school’s performance in “facilitating subjects”. These are subjects that Russell Group universities like to see among a candidate's mix of subjects, and include maths and further maths, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and modern and classical languages. Although we score very well on this measure, it is in the best interests of the pupil to pursue those subjects which they are most passionate about and likely to do well in, and we therefore support them in reaching their full potential whichever subjects they choose to study. It is also worth noting that many Russell Group universities recommend non-facilitating subjects for many degree courses, for example, Art for Architecture.
Data in tables is collected and presented in an infinite variety of ways, so no ranking should be taken as an absolute.
Please note that St Olave’s does not contribute results to the KS2 league tables because pupils do not sit SATs.
The difference between ranking by pupil, and ranking by entry
Ranking by pupil means that you will see the average score for each pupil in the school. Ranking by entry means that you will see the average score for each exam sat in the school.
If a school routinely enters pupils for a large number of exams – perhaps 11 or 12 GCSEs instead of 10, or four or five A-Levels instead of three – individual pupils will amass a much larger number of points, and the school will perform well in any table that ranks by pupil. As in the example above, three strong results at A-Level will appear lower down than four or five poorer results. Depending on the school, average point scores can be increased by a few pupils doing large numbers of exams, and / or passing them well. This can mask pupils lower down who are performing less well.
Ranking by entry is more useful, because it shows the average number of points gained in each exam. The higher the number of points per entry, the better the average pass mark at that school.
Value added scores are worked out on the difference between what a child is expected to achieve, and what it actually achieves. There are many different factors that can affect performance: teaching, resources, support at home, significant time off school, pastoral issues, the school’s pupil cohort and the pupil’s attitude to studying. Despite this, value added scores can be useful, but many independent schools do not produce them so it is not always possible to make a comparison.
Results are only one small part of the numerous factors that you will be taking into account when choosing a school for your child. The ethos of the school, a strong leadership, the co-curricular programme, the standard of facilities, the teaching and the pastoral and careers support are just some of the other things that you must consider.
It is important to remember that although league tables may give an overall indicator of a school’s performance against a particular measure, that measure is not always a helpful one and no league table will give any indication of how a particular child might do at a particular school. When looking at results for a school we would advise that you go beyond the simple league table position. Are most pupils achieving well, or are there as many D and E grades as there are As and Bs? Does the school perform equally well in all subjects? How many subjects are pupils sitting, and unless they are achieving very good grades in all of them, what is the school’s justification for pupils taking larger numbers of subjects rather than doing well in slightly fewer? Look, too, at destinations – how many pupils achieve a place at their preferred university? Any good school should be happy to share this information on request – we publish this data on our website.
Finally, you and your child should feel happy and comfortable in your chosen school. Remember that the best performing schools do not necessarily suit every child, so your best option is to discuss each school’s results in the context of your needs with the Head Master.