School league tables a 'fiasco': Unions likely to continue opposition to tests

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT'S league tables will be a 'fiasco' this year because of the large number of schools which have refused to pass on test results, and opposition to the tables is likely to continue next year, union leaders said yesterday.

Even if Sir Ron Dearing's review of the national curriculum and testing, due to complete its first stage at the end of this week, succeeds in quelling some of the teaching profession's anger over testing arrangements, national league tables could still pose a major problem for the Government next year.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: 'However successful Sir Ron is, and whatever support his recommendations command, there is a boulder further down the track.'

The National Association of Head Teachers, has written to all chief education officers asking for their support in preventing publication of league tables, particularly for tests on seven-year-olds.

Education authorities are legally bound to pass on the results of tests on seven-year-olds, but David Hart, NAHT general secretary, said he believed that the overwhelming majority of them 'will agree with our thinking'. The three main teacher unions, which voted to boycott tests for seven and 14-year-olds this summer, are opposed to the tables, which they say do not compare like with like and give misleading information to parents by ignoring the wider aspects of pupils' achievements.

Mr Hart said the league tables for tests on seven-year-olds were particularly unfair because of the differing amounts of time the children had spent in school before taking them.

The review by Sir Ron, chairman-designate of the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority, is not expected to tackle league tables. HETHER write errorowever, the Government and the teaching profession will need to reach agreement on the central question of public accountability.

John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, has argued that league tables ensure that teachers are accountable to parents. But teachers say the existence of the national curriculum, governing bodies, standardised tests and regular inspections already provide that accountability.