There are lies, damned lies and statistics

Over the past couple of weeks pupils throughout the country have received their A Level and GCSE results. The newspapers have shown numerous images of happy children who have secured excellent results. Schools and colleges alike post photographs of their outstanding students with text beneath explaining how their results are either ‘outstanding’ or ‘excellent’.

As an educationalist, I am horrified at how some schools and colleges use statistics to their advantage. One trick is to quote how many students gained an A* to B grade. The resultant number could mean that each of the students gained a single B grade at A Level! It most definitely is not the same as the statistic used by the broadsheets to compare the top schools in the country, namely the percentage of grades at A* to B. (In other words, the percentage of all examinations taken, which resulted in a grade from A* to B.) Hymers College can proudly boast that 69.6% of all results gained at least a B grade, placing us, once again as the best school in the local area and one of the best schools in the whole of the North of England.

The data that schools can produce about GCSE results this year is exceptionally difficult to understand because pupils will have sat subjects awarding numerical grades and lettered grades. This allows schools to bamboozle parents with a myriad of statistics. My advice is always to ask a school directly for the percentage of grades at each level (1-9 or E to A*) so that straightforward comparisons can be made.

Some schools and colleges are less open about their results than others! Beware any institution that simply makes no reference whatsoever to their results at either GCSE or A Level!