The Conservatives are proposing to give more weight in the exam league tables to "hard" A-level subjects, such as maths and science. Nick Gibb, the party's schools spokesman, said: "The disappearance of core academic subjects in many state schools is extremely worrying. We need to reverse this trend and ensure more children at least have the opportunity to take these subjects at A-level. That is why we are going to change league tables so they give more weight to the most valued subjects, more closely reflect the priorities of universities and employers and therefore prepare young people better for the future."
What puzzles me is how it will be decided (and by whom) what the “most valued subjects” are. The implication is that the government will decide. Poor show. Why not publish separate subject-based league tables and ignore the overall rating? There could even be a website that lets you input which subjects you’re interested in (chemistry, psychology and double maths, if you're me in 1993) and then produces ratings for local schools personalised to your needs.
Of course, this won’t get round the problems of overly narrow ‘teaching to the test’, of schools encouraging weaker candidates to drop out halfway through, and of the fact that raw exam scores reflect the quality of the intake rather than of the teaching, but these are pathologies endemic to the standard league tables. (On the third point, value-added and contextual value-added ratings are also produced, but these seem to be scorned as a leftist plot to do down ‘good’ schools, i.e. the schools that better-off parents send their kids to.)