League tables explained
League tables are a minefield to navigate, but colleges also have to deal with the added confusion over the difference between points and grades.
Exam league tables are generally referred to as A-level tables. However, they are actually made up of points calculated from results in a wide range of qualifications including the A2, AS, NVQs and National Diplomas.
Qualifications such as ASDAN’s Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (or COPE studies) also carry league table points.
To add to the confusion, there is also more than one league table: One based on points per student and the other on points per exam entry.
What this means is that the points per student calculation adds up all the exam points achieved by a student. The more qualifications they do, the more points they earn. Qualifications such as key skills, general studies, COPE etc all add to the total.
Different points weighting is also given to different qualifications. For example, a National Diploma is counted as the equivalent of three A-levels. However, a typical A-level student will study three or four (or sometimes more) A2s plus an AS or two.
So, the average A-level student earns more points than the average Advanced Vocational student.
This means that, in the points-per-student table a college or school offering a lot of advanced vocational qualifications can’t get anywhere near the total points score of one with little or no vocational provision.
The points score per exam entry eliminates this weighting problem, so a student doing four A2s plus two AS levels has his/her total score divided by six.
A National Diploma student has the score divided by three, as it is the equivalent of three A-levels.
The points-per-exam entry score provides information on the quality of outcomes i.e. the grades being awarded.
The Department for education refers to the points per exam entry as its “measure of quality”.
The third measure – and some would say the most important – is added value. This measures what Advanced level grades are achieved by students at 18 when compared to their GCSE results at 16.
In the added-value points score, a school or college achieving 1,000 or more is achieving positive added value. That means student outcomes are better than would be predicted by their performance at GCSE.
The higher the score above 1,000 the more added value has been achieved. A score of under 1,000 indicates negative added value so students are under performing compared to their grades at GCSE.