13 May 2008

School league tables are wrong

Finally, a little bit of common sense on the subject of school league tables from The Commons Schools, Children and Families Committee which concluded that the national testing system in English schools is being misused to the detriment of children's education.

This issue was also debated on The Guardian Mortarboard recently, where the proposal to abolish league tables got overwhelming support. This was my contribution to that debate.

Of course they should be abolished, and for several reasons.

They distort behaviour (as all targets do), e.g. disproportionate teaching effort is spent on children on the cusp of achieving a target grade at the expense of those who will clearly pass or fail (standard triage but hardly equitable).

They do not achieve their primary purpose in that the vast majority of parents simply so not understand them clearly enough. To give a real example from a DfES consultation on the presentation of the results, a sample table showed a league table with four schools in it which labelled a school fifth best but one point on one paper for one child could have put them second. But how many parents know enough about

There are other arguments against league tables but these two will do. They are indefensible and should be abolished.

The immediate response from the schools minister, Jim Knight MP, was not encouraging and suggests that he does not really understand how league tables work but I get the feeling that the tide has turned on this issue and the days of league tables (as they are currently defined) are numbered, though it may take a change of government to finally seal their fate.

1 comment:

  1. Matthew - I totally agree. Too much time is spent, both in primary schools and secondary schools, on "how to sit an exam". As for the statistics and maths of the league tables, and for their usefulness, I say "Death to the League Tables!"

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