School league tables a 'poisonous thorn' in side of education, warns think-tank

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The Independent Online

School league tables of pupils' exam scores should be scrapped as they have become a "poisonous thorn" in the side of educational progress, according to a report to be published by a think-tank next week.

School league tables of pupils' exam scores should be scrapped as they have become a "poisonous thorn" in the side of educational progress, according to a report to be published by a think-tank next week.

League tables have skewed schools' priorities and damaged pupils' education, the report by the Institute for Public Policy Research warns.

Schools' attitudes to the tests "border on obsession", it concludes. Allegations of teachers who cheat in the tests and even force sick children to sit the exams so their school will not be penalised by their absence show that league table culture has gone too far, concludes the report, "Time to say Goodbye? The Future of School Performance Tables".

The report warns that the tables are misleading and say more about the wealth and backgrounds of a school's pupils than teachers' effectiveness. It calls for the publication of pupils' "raw" test scores to be abolished and for only data showing how much "value" a school has added to pupils' results to be published.

The report praises the Government's introduction of "value-added" ratings and calls for a public consultation to ask parents and teachers to consider the strengths and limitations of different types of tables.

Jodie Reed, co-author of the report, said that parents were far more sophisticated users of information than ministers give them credit for.

"The continued use of league tables reflecting the raw exam results of individual schools is no longer the best option for schools, pupils or parents," she said.

"Ministers talk about 'intelligent accountability' but fear that parents would feel disempowered by moving away from the current tables."

The national publication of "raw" tables has been abolished in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. But in England the tables are becoming more entrenched in the education system.

Announcing the new primary strategy in May this year, Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said that "testing, targets and performance tables are very much here to stay".The Government is preparing to publish on Wednesday the first ever national tables ranking secondary schools according to their success in tests taken by 14-year-old pupils.

The day before that, the National Union of Teachers will announce the result of a ballot to boycott tests for primary school pupils.

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