Right of Reply: Jacqui Smith

The Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education responds to a leading article that criticised the secondary-school league tables as inadequate
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The Independent Culture
I SHARE The Independent's view about the importance of introducing value-added information into the performance tables ("A good start, Mr Blunkett, but you could do better", 25 November).

However, to introduce such a measure without getting it right would discredit value-added data before it got off the ground.

When we were elected, very little had been done to prepare for value- added data, despite claims to the contrary by the previous government. We are now collecting the pupil-level data that will allow us to develop fair comparisons between performance at seven and 11, and between performance at 11, 14 and later 16.

Without collecting such data, we would not reflect the huge level of pupil mobility that occurs in our schools, particularly in urban areas, and which can skew any results.

Value-added data would allow us to see the extent to which a school developed its individual pupils' potential and would be an important additional piece of information in the tables.

I expect such information for secondary schools to be piloted in 2001 and to be available generally in 2002; and to be available for primary schools a year later.

However, the Government has made considerable progress despite your claim that the tables are "woefully inadequate".

We introduced the measure on pupils leaving with no passes - and set a target to reduce that number. In two years the number of pupils leaving with no passes has fallen from 45,000 to 35,000 - although there is clearly more to do. We also decided to show how well schools were improving and to publish a GCSE point score to reflect overall achievement.

These are not unimportant improvements - and they will be complemented when we have a robust and fair system of value-added data.

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