Thanet executive head teacher slams league table data and ‘worst school’ headlines as ‘stupid’ and ‘damaging’

RHA head Simon Pullen and Coastal Academies Trust chief exec Paul Luxmoore

Government league tables and headlines branding schools as ‘the worst’ for progress across eight subjects at secondary level have been slammed as “stupid” and ‘damaging to students’ by a Thanet executive head teacher.

Paul Luxmoore heads the Coastal Academies Trust which covers schools including Royal Harbour Academy, Hartsdown, King Ethelbert and Dane Court Grammar.

Two CAT schools, and The Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs, have been branded as ‘under-performing’ in the latest league tables based on Progress 8 scores.

The score shows how much progress pupils have made between the end of key stage 2 and the end of key stage 4. It is based on results in up to 8 qualifications, which include English, maths, 3 English Baccalaureate qualifications including sciences, computer science, history, geography and languages, and 3 other additional approved qualifications.

A score above zero means pupils made more progress, on average, than others across England whereas a negative progress score shows less progress.

For Royal Harbour Academy in Ramsgate the score was 0.63, The Charles Dickens School was 0.66 and Hartsdown came in at 1.19. These are classed as well below average.

The tables, which do not include University Technical Colleges (UTCSs), further education colleges with 14-16 provision or studio schools, marks schools with a score of less than  0.2510 in 2016, 2017 and 2018 as ‘coasting.’

Paul Luxmoore

But Mr Luxmoore says the measurement, which is applied to all 3,297 state-funded mainstream schools and academies across England, fails to take into account pupils backgrounds and factors including deprivation.

He said: “There is an exact correlation between attainment on entry into secondary school -students’ ability – and Progress 8 score. There is also an exact correlation between deprivation -based on pupil premium numbers – and Progress 8 scores. Selective schools in affluent areas have higher scores than non selective schools in poor areas. Does this mean that the ‘posh’ schools are better than our schools – categorically not.

“There simply is no way of grading / comparing schools as though they were all the same. The U.K. has a huge variety of types of school and in widely varying contexts.

“Schools are already held to account by Ofsted – however, Ofsted has not yet cracked a fair method of doing this. The new Ofsted framework, due to begin in September, promises to be more intelligent – but the teaching profession is still concerned that too much will depend on the subjective judgments of inspectors. I remain optimistic, however.


“Whatever the method, if there really has to be one, society – of which the media is a part – has a responsibility to be measured and balanced in what conclusions are drawn. Headlines about ‘worst’ schools and ‘failing’ schools are simply stupid – and damaging to our children.

“It is society’s job to educate them – so it’s odd when ‘society’ tells them that they are attending rubbish schools! They are our children- why are we trying to undermine them?”

“The media – and the government – should focus on finding intelligent ways to improve the life chances of children in economically deprived areas, such as Thanet. The teachers in our schools have committed their careers to this – it’s about time society supported them.”

Adjusted Progress 8

Mr Luxmoore’s criticisms are backed by researchers at the University of Bristol who have produced an “adjusted” Progress 8.

This takes into account factors such as ethnicity, free school eligibility and gender, so progress is compared with others in their group rather than with an overall national average.

Under the adjusted measure, 123 (41 per cent) of the 303 schools that were judged in 2016 to be underperforming or “well below average” would move out of that category.

HM Government via Wikimedia Commons

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “Making sure that all pupils, regardless of their background, are able to fulfil their potential is one of this Government’s key priorities and these results show that more pupils across the country are doing just that.

“It’s been clear for some time that standards are rising in our schools and today’s data underlines the role academies and free schools are playing in that improvement, with progress above the national average and impressive outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

“Also vital to rising standards is the increasing number of pupils entering the EBacc. With a record number of disadvantaged pupils achieving good grades in the EBacc, more pupils will go on to further and higher education with a wider range of options and opportunities.”

The government tables also show the proportion of pupils achieving a grade 5 or above at GCSE in both English and maths has increased, from 42.6% last year to 43.3% and 95.5% of pupils are now entering EBacc science at GCSE, up from 63.2% in 2010.


  1. I don’t think it’s at all helpful to undermine students, by ranking schools the way we do. I know many students who are working their socks off. Let’s not undermine their efforts. Our education system should feed and nurture all our young people. Schools need more funding and pupils need more opportunities.

  2. I agree with the Head teacher it’s very divisive and insulting to all the staff and pupils. How awful for children to be stigmatised at a young age. We have a useless government who have increased crime increased unrest and low morale across the country. Encourage love and support children and they will do well, treating them as if they are thick and beyond help and they will think “what’s the point” no one values them so they will not try or care.

  3. These damning reports do do damage. OFSTED has often been wrong on its reporting, so this “Government” (which is very far from satisfactory) really has ‘0’ right to criticise our hard working children and Teachers at their various Schools.

  4. Many of the people who read this will miss one thing.

    This is the result of general academisation of the schools in the area. When it was just The Marlowe Academy, their results took an upturn because they had support and they had the ability to choose pupils and put pupils on courses that suited them to a greater extent. Now, near enough every school in the area is an academy; with this the advantage that was had is now a major disadvantage.

    In education there is always going to be the cans and the cannots, especially in Maths, English and Science, but grading kids across country is borderline cruel, and damaging to their future in education. After all why would you want to continue trying if you’ve been told you’re the worst.

    Praise the kids strengths, and acknowledge the weaknesses. Nothing more, nothing less.

  5. Although I think it may be counter productive to compare different schools I do think it is helpful to monitor an individual schools pfogress and performance against a standardised criteria. If we expect childden from poor socioeconomic backgrounds to fail or under achieve they will!!! Its about time teachers valued children and their potential individually ; rather than categorizing them as one failing group!
    By writing off chidren as failures, teachers are just replicating the same government system imposed on them that they complain is so unfair!!

  6. Having worked in both the state and private education sectors there is a clear difference. The private sector is well and truly focused on outcome. Students are expected to achieve and, if they don’t, the parents who pay handsomely want to know why. Poor behaviour and laziness are not tolerated. The state sector makes excuse after excuse for the poor outcomes they deliver, but they are prevented from delivering by a veritable army of interfering busybodies, who prevent schools from dealing with the low-level disruption which blights their classrooms. It’s not rocket science and, when you’ve worked in a school which has been “turned around” you see that great things are possible when schools insist on high standards of behaviour and are able to remove students who simply won’t cooperate or comply. The teaching profession knows all of this but they have been undermined and let down by the government, by the press, by OFSTED, by local authorities and by their own unions, who seem to spend more time bleating about poverty in Africa than doing anything to improve working conditions for the people who pay for them to exist. Of course, the teaching profession itself must share some of the blame. They are routinely blamed for poor results when the people who are actually culpable don’t even work in the classrooms. If teachers had any kind of backbone they would stop accepting the interference and would take back control of their profession.

  7. Headmaster is bang on. How can stigmatising kids be helpful. Now you go to a school at the bottom of the league when grammer schools cream of all the best. Not a level playing field is it

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