New tables to identify schools that could do better

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The Independent Online
New-style league tables will expose schools with middle-class intakes which get reasonable examination results but could do much better, ministers promised yesterday.

Estelle Morris, the schools minister, announced that from this November secondary school exam performance tables will tell parents whether schools have improved by giving results for this year and the last three.

From next year, ministers say that both primary and secondary schools should be able to show how much progress pupils are making at different stages. They want to end criticism that the present league tables tell parents more about the background of a school's pupils than the quality of its teaching.

Government exam advisers will look at ways in which the "value added" to pupils' education can be demonstrated either in or with next year's performance tables. All pupils will be given a number so that they can be tracked throughout their school careers.

Ms Morris said: "So far performance tables have not given as full a picture of what is happening in schools as they might do. The tables must show more than just raw information on performance in any single year."

She said new value-added levels for schools would compare pupils' prior attainment with their current achievement. "Those schools which should be doing a lot better with the intake they have will no longer be able to coast along in the middle of the tables," she added.

This year's national publication of primary league tables for national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds will not be repeated. Instead, local authorities will be given a statutory duty to publish the results. Next year, publication will be in January instead of March and the 1998 results should be published in November, in time to help parents in their choice of school.

It will be up to local authorities to decide whether to publish results of national tests for 7- and 14-year-olds.

Ms Morris said that research done for the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority had found that it was possible to measure value added in schools. For example, pupils' performance in tests at 7 will be compared with their achievements at 11, and results at 14 will be compared with GCSE results. Schools will have to base their targets for improvement on the new measures.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the proposals were a step in the right direction but did not go nearly far enough. Tables would still not properly take into account pupils who scored less than C or those who were absent.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "League tables based on crude results are not a reliable indication of school performance no matter how they are modified by so called value- added indicators."

Ministers have decided not to change the main measure of performance at 16 - five A-C grades - despite criticism that it encourages schools to neglect the weakest and concentrate on children capable of getting at least a C.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, yesterday went to News International's plant in Wapping, east London, to launch an extension of the Government's summer literacy schools programme. In a press release it was announced that Rupert Murdoch's company was giving pounds 250,000 to the scheme.