League tables measure; people inspire.

There has been a great deal of measuring going on this week courtesy of the DfE. By measuring of course I am referring to the school league tables which attracted the usual column inches in the press. My view of these tables is on record. School league tables are a blunt yardstick – they measure what they measure, and tell you nothing more.

A new league table entered the arena this year. This table identified the educational establishments where students achieved AAB in the facilitating subjects recognised by the elite Russell Group of Universities.  The Stephen Perse Foundation ranked very well with this measurement – we were placed a pleasing fifth in the country.  Yet by definition this table did not include our IBDP students where the average was an excellent 40 / 45 points.

If you look at the HEFCE equivalent to AAB, which is currently 35 points, then we gained a 94 per cent ‘AAB’ rate with our 2012 IB cohort. This would place us at No 1 in the Russell Group league by a wide margin.

Thought for DfE – do we now need a separate Russell Group IB league table? Or, is all this obsessing with measurement a distraction from what really matters – inspiring students to strive for a place in the educational setting of their choice?

This is the real imperative for schools today. Traditionally, guidance has focused on careers advice. Only recently I visited a class where the students were engaged in an online careers guidance exercise. One student was curious as to why she was being prompted by the virtual guidance to become a pet therapist.  Interesting but strangely random.  Although there is a place for this process, process alone can only channel, it cannot open a world of possibilities. It cannot inspire. The clarion call of the Olympics to “Inspire a Generation” served us well as a nation. It surely must be equally relevant to our schools!

The challenge facing educators today is to guide our young people towards a future where the landscape lacks the certainty of the past.  We face a future characterised by the unknowns. Therefore guidance must be harnessed to inspiration.  We are no longer merely a conduit for passing on information relating to specific career routes.  We need to offer a higher level of guidance.  In our school we have developed a programme called Inspire Me which aims to do just this.  The purpose of this ambitious programme is to invite people with interesting life stories and career paths in to school to share these with the students.

Only last week we welcomed back Old Persean, Clare Young, formerly a scientist, now a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police force.  She spoke to the school about her experiences as part of the security team which protected the Olympic torch as it traversed the country last summer.  Her fitness levels had to be extremely high as did her diplomatic skills dealing with a host of celebrities and of course the public during her travels around Britain.  How wonderful for our current cohort of students to listen to the life experiences of someone who, only 15 years ago, was a pupil at their school.  Clare hadn’t imagined she would play her role in an historic sporting event in this country but she was inspired to seize her opportunity.

Of course inspiration must be underpinned with excellent guidance.  An individual should shape their own aspiration and not be shaped by the aspiration of their school.  This year our students’ ambitions have been rewarded with offers from all kinds of Higher Education institutions.  Whilst 30% have Oxbridge offers, others hold offers from a whole host of universities for an extraordinary range of subjects.  Still pending is a Skype interview for a Liberal Arts course in Maastricht, an application to Military Academies in the United States and a much prized place on a midwifery course (bumped into the student in Waitrose who tells me her interview is soon, so best of luck!).

If you want to find out more about our guidance in the sixth form here is the link to the relevant section of our website:


I started by referencing league tables – I should like to conclude by noting a rather bizarre feature of the GCSE league tables. Even though our school boasted GCSE examination results which ranked amongst the best in the country we don’t appear at all in this DfE measurement.  Go figure.

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