ESF figures tell their own story if the critic would only listen
The anonymous letter of March 29 'A-level results need verifying' is misinformed in all respects. Last summer I left my position as a senior inspector in England with responsibility for post-16 education to join the ESF. As well as feeling reasonably well informed to comment on the letter, I want to say that I am proud of what I have found here.
First, the writer claims that the ESF and its secondary principals 'never seem to miss an opportunity to laud themselves over exam results'. The writer also seems to suggest a certain duplicity or, at best, a lack of transparency over the publication of results which are outstanding by any indicator. At A-level last year an average of 38.2 per cent of grades awarded were at the highest (grade A) level. This compares with less than 21 per cent in England and Wales and is just 3 per cent below the level achieved by the highly selective Independent Schools' Council (ISC) schools.
At the higher (A-C) grades, ESF achieves 85 per cent compared with 65 per cent in England and Wales. ESF schools do not select by academic ability, and welcome students with special educational needs. Last year, the overall pass rate at A-level was an impressive 98.5 per cent, enabling ESF students to graduate to many of the best universities in the world. In common with almost all schools in Britain, our students usually take four AS and three A-levels, although some do one extra subject at each level. Like most UK schools, we use ALIS (A-level information systems) to calculate value added from 16 to 18 years. This helps us answer the question: are our results good enough? We show that we add at least one grade and usually more above that expected as the norm in a UK school.
Each ESF school calculates average points scored and publishes all its aggregated results on the school Web site. Unlike England, we do not have to do this, nor do we believe in creating a league table of similar results. We publish because we want to inform and because we are proud of the achievements of ESF students.
At GCSE, 46 per cent of grades in ESF schools were at A* or A grade, compared with 16 per cent in England and Wales.
In all respects, our schools easily outperform those in England and Wales and rank with many of the best independent schools. ESF enters some students early - when the student is ready rather than when s/he is 'expected' to sit the examination. This enables our students to follow accelerated learning programmes. Students take nine or 10 GCSEs, a comparable figure to England and Wales and one that allows for sufficient curriculum breadth to be retained without cramping the richness of extra-curricular programmes. Most of our students take double award science at GCSE or IGCSE, equivalent to two GCSEs.
We urge your reader to consult the Web sites of any of our secondary schools for information of not only the exam results but also the excellent on-line learning materials prepared by our teachers for all ESF students in these troubled times.
Education Officer (Secondary),
English Schools Foundation
Some more equal than others
I wish to thank Chris Forse for clarifying the legal background for the admission policy of ESF schools ('ESF on path to education equality', Education Post, March 29). In his words: 'In so far as the ESF is a segregated organisation, it is because the ordinance by which it was created places restrictions on access to its schools on those who can be educated in the local sector, whether they can afford ESF fees or not.'
The idea, that the law supposes an admission policy based on the ability to speak English as a mother tongue may be morally justifiable, reminds me of Oliver Twist in which Mr Bumble said: 'If the law supposes that, the law is an ass.' Mr Forse has laid the blame at the door of the authority. Our learned legislators, human rights barristers, educators, and government officials are now obliged to clarify the degree of segregation provided for in our law and the moral ground for such segregation in our education.
Mr Forse may wish to reconsider his endorsement for my comments which originally included the following two paragraphs that were not printed.
'Every year about 10,000 expatriates apply for permanent residence in Hong Kong. For the rights and benefits conferred by this status, shouldn't these non-Chinese residents show their moral commitment by at least considering the option of sending their children to local schools?
'The ESF should be subject to a rational cost-benefit analysis to assess its benefit to the community as a whole, not only as an inducement for attracting foreign investment. A policy that offers unquestioned admission to English-speaking students, especially those with a foreign education background, is not only economically unwise, but also unfair in view of the keen competition for quality education among the indigenous population.'