Compare like with unlike at your peril

For the first time this year it has become possible to compare the performance of primary and secondary schools in each local education authority. The table compiled by The TES (right) makes it possible to check whether an LEA's relative performance at primary level is maintained in the secondary sector.

For example Sefton, ninth in the primary table, slips back to 45th in terms of GCSE ranking, raising questions about the performance of its secondary schools. Conversely, Redbridge, 61st for its key stage 2 performance, soars to ninth in the GCSE table. However, fluctuations in school populations, particularly in urban authorities, can have a significant impact on results.

The table also lists information about the proportion of primary pupils eligible for free school meals, a key indicator of family poverty, and spending per pupil.

This enables comparisons to be made between deprivation and performance, and gives a rough guide to which LEAs provide best value for money. While there is generally a correlation between performance and poverty there are notable exceptions, where LEAs are achieving relatively high results.

Equally, because of historic differences in spending costs, further complicated by special educational needs and other factors, any conclusions linking spending with performance must be highly tentative.

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