I have sent this letter this morning to my local MP. I would urge others to make similar representation.
I would like to ask you to discuss with your colleagues at the Department of Education our deepest concerns about the restructuring of the discount codes for KS4 and P16 subjects. You will be aware that there is currently a system of using discount codes to link subjects that have similar content, skills and understanding. This means that a school that enters a student for English GCSE with four different examination boards will have only one recognised in the school performance tables. This is an appropriate system to tackle what some have called “gaming” and protects a student from wasting learning time on additional qualifications which do not move the student on with their learning.
However, the recent (and retrospective for 2014 performance tables) changes to the discount codes are alarming as they do not seem to recognise the needs of students. You will be aware that we are an Arts College, with very successful outcomes for students studying Art in P16. Not only that, but our contribution to the local cultural climate is significant, having only just this week having been asked to make a significant artistic contribution to an event, which will place the work of our students on the national and international stage.
The recent changes to the discount codes mean that a student studying separate A Levels in Textiles and Photography will have only one of these qualifications included in the school performance tables. This means that there is a clear disincentive for a school to support a student in following this combination, or indeed any combination of two Art based courses, whether that be, for example, Fine Art, Graphics or Sculpture.
We have a significant number of students who choose to stay at our school to follow courses in Art and then progress on to specialist Art courses in Higher Education. It now appears that the DfE is clearly making it very difficult for students to make these kind of choices, or where they are supported by the school, the school itself will be penalised. Our school is penalised for supporting students making choices within the Arts, students who have discussed with us and their parents their future intentions and have chosen appropriately.
As you look through the list of courses that have now been given the same discount code, you will also see that the Department of Education sees Dance and Drama as effectively the same subject, having given them the same discount code.
When I see this I become deeply concerned that the Department for Education has little idea about what these subjects involve.