Blunkett in league table climbdown

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THE GOVERNMENT bowed to pressure from headteachers yesterday and dropped controversial plans to grade every school from A to E in the forthcoming league tables.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, said the so-called progress measure, due to be published in two weeks, would be unfair to a significant number of schools. His decision was immediately branded a "humiliating U-turn" by Conservatives. But headteachers welcomed the climbdown.

The dispute centres on a new measure designed to show how much progress pupils have made between national English, maths and science tests at 14 and their GCSEs.

The progress measure would have compared the GCSE results of schools that recorded similar results in the national tests at 14, known as Key Stage Three tests. But headteachers were angry last month after receiving details of their grades. They were furious that many schools where most children achieve at least five good GCSEs would have been graded near the bottom of a five-point scale because pupils had done so well two years earlier.

Now the tables will simply record a "tick" for the 800 schools recording higher-than-average GCSEs compared with performance in the national tests.

Mr Blunkett is understood to have decided that the measure would have discredited efforts to introduce a "value added" system assessing the progress made by each pupil.

Mr Blunkett said: "We have listened to the concerns expressed by schools ... and have decided that the most robust available measure of a school's improvement in the tables should remain the school performance index this year."

David Willetts, for the Tories, said: "This is a humiliating U-turn. The Government claimed this measure was going to identify schools which are coasting and denying their pupils the success they should be getting."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This is evidence that the Government is prepared to listen to well-argued professional opinion given by the people who lead schools."