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Value-Added


Lou Phillips
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I have just started my second teacher training placement and part of our induction with the senior mentor was a talk about current intiatives etc. This turned into a bit of a rant on his part about Value-Added being a waste of time. I suggested that in some cases it would be a good reflection of the quality of a school perhaps better than A*-C League tables as he suggested, e.g. in an area of social deprivation where parents can't afford to pay for tutors to raise their child's achievment, where truancy levels are high etc. He dismissed this entirely, saying that schools which celebrate their high added value are still failing schools- at the end of the day life is about A*-C and if they are based in poorer areas etc then they will have better funding to equip them for it.

Is there anyone out there who agrees with me? I appreciate that all statistical tables are fraught with problems and Value-added is no exception but I simply can not accept that you should not take the background of the pupils into account when assessing school performance.

I would be interested to hear from both sides of the debate as we weren't given the chance to discuss it.

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Does the A*-C League table tell us anything at all about the quality of teaching / learning or the amount of progress made? Didn't think so.

Value Added is a much more useful gauge of how well a school or department has performed. If schools or teachers are to be judged on their rate of success then it has to be linked to the raw materials (students) that they are working with.

NB: Don't assume that schools in socially deprived areas will naturally have a higher rate of truancy.

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Whether your senior mentor likes it or not Value Added measures will be used more and more to show that schools are succeeding in providing their students with a quality education, allowing them to reach or exceed their potential whatever their backgrounds or levels of ability.

...a bit of a rant on his part about Value-Added being a waste of time...at the end of the day life is about A*-C

I disagree that Value Added is a waste of time. The morale of the staff and students in a school which is never going to be at the top of the A*-C league tables is boosted by appearing near the top of the Value Added tables! As my school is in one of the few areas that still has grammar schools, this is particularly the case for us. We have a very good A*-C record as a non-selective secondary school, (53%) last year, but the interesting thing was that our value added scores actually exceeded those of some of these selective schools in the area! I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

A*-C grades certainly are the yardstick that is used for progressing to F.E, vocational training and to many jobs. Schools should be ensuring that they maximise the achievements of every student to provide them with the opportunities to move into worthwhile post 16 provisions. That is what education is all about and Value Added gives an idea of how successful individual schools are at enabling students to make use of such opportunities! :D

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I have just started my second teacher training placement and part of our induction with the senior mentor was a talk about current intiatives etc. This turned into a bit of a rant on his part about Value-Added being a waste of time. I suggested that in some cases it would be a good reflection of the quality of a school perhaps better than A*-C League tables as he suggested, e.g. in an area of social deprivation where parents can't afford to pay for tutors to raise their child's achievment, where truancy levels are high etc. He dismissed this entirely, saying that schools which celebrate their high added value are still failing schools- at the end of the day life is about A*-C and if they are based in poorer areas etc then they will have better funding to equip them for it.

He sounds a prize "wally" :D

His views on value added, though seriously flawed, are perhaps forgiveable. His abuse of a teacher training opportunity to push forward a right wing agenda less so. :D

Perhaps on the topic of funding you should suggest to him that all schools should be adequately funded to ensure equal opportunity and equal standards. LEAs should be committed to ensuring this. In areas of economic deprivation this will inevitably require more resources to make up for the lack of parental time, income, resources, interest.

Labelling schools negatively in difficult areas only leads to an exacerbation of their existing problems. It is perhaps the aggressively market driven inspection regime which results in "sink" schools and low standards. Giving a school money after you have labelled it as "failing" is not going to help. They will already be descending into a downwards spiral as a "market loser"

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In an ideal world value added makes perfectly good sense, but it may be hard to measure. I have visited so-called “sink schools” and I have been really impressed by what the teachers and the kids have achieved under difficult conditions. The world outside school, however, is (unfortunately) competitive. Employers are rarely interested in the progress that a potential employee has made from point A to point B; rather they are more interested in what a potential employee can already do. Ensuring that children reach minimum standards of literacy, numeracy etc while at school requires funding that reflects local circumstances.

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In response to Graham's comment:

In an ideal world value added makes perfectly good sense, but it may be hard to measure.

....in the education field Value Added is currently being measured by comparing the examination achievements of each child at the end of KS4 with the achievement at the end of KS2 and KS3. A school is then given value added scores for KS2-KS3 and KS2-KS4. The calculations are made based on the SATs levels and GCSE grades achieved on a pupil by pupil basis.

Having been involved in supplying information for the piloting of this scheme it does mean that LEAs need to be able to collate all such information for every child so data transfer has to be spot on!

I know that there will be screams of 'value added isn't just about exam grades', but they are things that can be given a numerical value and so used to produce real data. Of course schools do a lot more that get children through exams but as Lou's mentor said

at the end of the day life is about A*-C

Whenever I have applied for jobs I have had to state my examination grades and so equally those examination grades will stay with today's school leavers throughout their working life! If they have no value then we are all wasting our time! :D

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I am a supporter of 'value added' data. I teach in an inner city school which gets results that are well below the national average, but that is a poor reflection of the incredible dedication, commitment and love (and I use that word intentionally) that many teachers at my school show day in and day out. It also does not reflect that many of the students have English as an additional language, a large number have statements of special needs and over 60% claim free school meals. I was very glad when I saw the value added tables that my school came out virtually top of all the schools in the borough (including the school that the Prime Minister's children went to).

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Value added data is fine when it works for you. I know a couple of excellent schools whose value added score is appalling, simply because a couple of their feeder primaries over valued Science levels. When pupils arrived in Year 7, baseline tests revealed that pupils were at least one level lower than that reported in Year 6. The effect of KS3 Value Added is therefore pretty catastrophic.

The marking for KS3 English tests last year was dodgy to say the least last year as well. Many schools sent their tests back to be remarked. Most of them came back at the next level up. Other schools however didn't bother to get them remarked so weren't upgraded.

My view therefore is that there are too many flaws in the system for it to be credible. If it has worked for your particular school then great, but we can't assume that schools with low VA scores are failing pupils.

Edited by Rob Jones
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In response to Rob's comments

I know a couple of excellent schools whose value added score is appalling, simply because a couple of their feeder primaries over valued Science levels. When pupils arrived in Year 7, baseline tests revealed that pupils were at least one level lower than that reported in Year 6.

..I am unclear how you think that the feeder primary schools can have such a dramatic effect - surely all primary schools are trying to do the same as secondary schools i.e get their particular students to achieve good grades in examinations. If the result of this is that a 'good secondary school' doesn't achieve a good value added grading perhaps that has something to say about what is happening at KS3? Are the students actually making good progress? I accept that there is an issue regarding comparing KS2 levels with KS3 levels but all schools are working with this situation!

How did your 'excellent schools' fare in the KS2 - 4 value added scores? If these were still 'appalling' perhaps this says something about how much progress their students are actually making over the 5 years they spend at secondary school. The one thing that value added does highlight is that schools with an intake of able pupils who, to date, have shown up well in the A*-C league tables are not necessarily maximising their students' potential.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you for your comments, I am relieved to hear that I am not the only one who feels like this. You have also highlighted a number of other issues I haven't thought about.

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