Educationists and unions say league tables are 'toxic'

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The Independent Online

The Government must abandon league tables and national tests because they are having a "toxic influence" on schools, a headteachers' leader said yesterday.

Meanwhile, a poll of parents revealed little support for league tables but a strong desire for politicians to stop meddling in their children's schools.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told his union's annual conference in Brighton the testing regime was no longer "fit for purpose" and that opposition to targets and testing had grown from a few voices to to become an "irresistible force".

He said "league tables are a toxic influence from the era of market-based policy making". Dr Dunford's call coincided with the poll of parents commissioned by the right-leaning think-tank Policy Exchange to mark the publication of a report calling for radical changes to the school system.

The report, Helping Schools Succeed: a framework for English education, argued that there was too much government intervention in schools, at the expense of the role of teachers.

It called for league tables to be scrapped and replaced with a school "report card" that would provide more information for parents.

The union's attack on testing and targets comes just after the biggest review of primary education for 40 years reached the same conclusion last month.

The authors of the Policy Exchange report, Chris Davies and Cheryl Lim, examined successful school systems around the world, and recommended replacing the national curriculum with a brief set of core subjects to allow schools more freedom. They also backed performance-related pay for teachers. The Policy Exchange argued that its poll of parents demonstrated strong public support for its recommendations.