FE college results

November 24, 1995

(Table) - This week the Department for Education and Employment produced performance data for the English further education colleges for the third time. We publish here the full figures along with theWelsh Office tables on the Welsh colleges.The Scottish Office publishes performance data for schools in Scotland but has no plans to produce information on colleges.

An alternative to this week's crude examination league tables (below) is being devised at London University's Institute of Education.

Colleges are sure to welcome the new "value added" approach, which adjusts the raw results data to take account of prior achievement and so measures the grades-improvement achieved by individual students.

This attempt to overcome some of the serious flaws said to be contained in the current system addresses issues that have been voiced all along by colleges. But any assessment of prior achievement would have to be broadened from GCSE performance, since many further education students have not come through "traditional" examination routes.

Commenting on the league tables, Anthony Colton, principal of Mathew Boulton College which was ranked close to the bottom in percentages of students achieving advanced vocational qualifications, said: "These outcomes do not reflect the tremendous amount of teaching and learning going on or the vastly different funding levels between institutions."

David Eade, principal of Barnsley College, joined Mr Colton in calling for more sensitive league tables but he cautioned against making any new formula too complex.

"Lay people are increasingly interested in exam results," he said. "But if any new value-added leagues were too difficult to understand then the public would think it was a cover up by the profession, and we can't afford that."

Colin Couble, acting chief executive of Thomas Danby College in Leeds, said: "We are entering people for exams who may have been out of the education system for years. This is almost a smack in the face and does not recognise the enormous achievements of students and teachers."

Stan Dey, principal of Yorkshire Coast College of Further and Higher Education, said he was unhappy with the A level results in particular since the college had only 11 students. "We offer A levels as modules for GNVQ but these are never counted," he said.

Other principals were also unhappy about the focus on A level scores. Ruth Silver, principal of Lewisham College in London, said her main criticism of the tables stemmed from the fact that FE students were featured only if they were between the ages of 16 and 19. "Many A level students at Lewisham and other colleges are 19 and over and they are achieving excellent results. Those results are not included in the leagues tables so colleges appear to be doing badly. This simply isn't the case."

The Department for Education and Employment said the tables were a third successive victory in the battle to drive up standards.

Lord Henley, education and employment minister, said: "The publication of these tables is the biggest single public information exercise undertaken by any government department."

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