Richard Garner: The future of league tables, we are told, is assured if the Conservatives win the general election

Labour would not scrap them, either - even though it would like its proposed new US-style report cards to replace them in the hearts and minds of parents.

There, though, the similarity ends. The Conservatives would bring in another revolution in the way the information is transmitted to the public.

Michael Gove, their schools spokesman, has said that one of their first acts in government would be to ensure the International GCSE - at present taken mainly by independent school pupils - would be recognised and available to the state sector. Independent school heads say that the IGCSE - constructed along the traditional lines of O-levels - is more stretching for their pupils. The move would bring to an end the farcical situation whereby top fee-paying schools such as Winchester lie at the bottom of GCSE league tables simply because their pupils do not sit the exam. Presumably if the Conservatives are to recognise the IGCSE, it will count towards their league table performance.

As for the report card, which would give every school an overall grade plus individual grades for things such as exam performance and even children's behaviour, Gove told The Independent in an interview that he would not go ahead with the experiment - believing it would offer parents "fuzzy" accountability rather than the more direct format of the league tables.

Of course, as far as teachers' and headteachers' unions are concerned, they would like to see the whole paraphernalia scrapped. Grist to their mill appears to come from the form of the league tables this year.

In the A-level results, schools that are in consortia can choose whether they present their results in a column for individual institutions or to declare a consortia result.

If they opt for the former, they can decide whether they present the results of the individual schools or a consortia result. You can see that if a top-performing school ties up with a struggling neighbour, the high-flyer will want to record its individual result whereas the struggling school will want to reflect on the consortia results.

John Dunford, the widely respected general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has always argued that the drive towards more consortia would make a nonsense of the league tables. I think that I tend to agree with him.

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