Next year's GCSE results will be published in secondary school performance tables after a hiatus of two years, the government has announced.
Heads have condemned the "deeply concerning" move as "nonsensical", arguing that the pandemic makes meaningful comparisons between schools impossible.
They have welcomed the Department for Education's decision not to publish Sats results in primary school league tables until a year later, in 2022-23, but have questioned what else they will be used for.
New guidance published this afternoon on accountability at key stage 4 states: "Results from qualifications achieved in 2021-22 will be published on school and college performance tables, using our normal suite of accountability measures, as far as that is possible.
"Qualifications at KS4 and post-16 are designed to provide evidence of students' achievements that open doors to their future careers.
GCSEs 2022: 'Impossible to make meaningful comparisons' for school league tables
"After two years without publication of performance data, it is important that this information is publicly available to parents and students to support them when choosing schools and post-16 institutions, given the importance of qualification outcomes to student progression."
On arrangements for KS2, it adds: "Primary school tests and assessments are designed for use in accountability and to enable benchmarking between schools. As these assessments will be returning for the first time since 2019, without any adaptations, the results will not be published in KS2 performance tables in academic year 2021-22.
"We will, however, still produce the normal suite of KS2 accountability measures at school level and share these securely with primary schools, academy trusts, local authorities and Ofsted for school improvement purposes and to help identify schools most in need of support.
"This will be a transitional arrangement for the first year in which primary assessments return. We intend to publish primary assessment data in performance tables again in academic year 2022-23. Until this point, KS2 performance data for academic year 2018-19 will continue to be publicly available on Compare School and College Performance."
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "It is absolutely nonsensical to publish secondary school and college performance tables next year, given the greatly differing extent to which pupils' learning has been affected by the pandemic and may well continue to be impacted next academic year.
"It is impossible to make meaningful comparisons of performance across such a disrupted landscape and publishing data which may be heavily affected by circumstances could damage schools and colleges which have been hit hardest by the effects of Covid.
"We are relieved that sanity has at least prevailed in respect of the decision not to publish performance data about primary schools next year, although we have questions about exactly how the information gathered by the government will be used."
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union the NAHT, said: "The decision to publish the normal sets of performance measures at secondary and post-16 is deeply concerning. The extent of disruption to children and young people's education has varied considerably during the pandemic, which will make comparison of performance data between schools meaningless.
"Given widespread acknowledgement of this issue, it is of considerable concern that government should be striving to reintroduce performance tables quite so quickly.
"Published data in 2022 could be unreliable for a number of reasons, but, most importantly, it will reflect the very different experiences pupils have had and the face-to-face teaching time they have missed as a result of the pandemic. The data may tell you more about the impact of the pandemic on the school than the achievement and progress which has been made by its pupils."
Mr Whiteman welcomed the decision not to publish KS2 performance data next year but pointed out that it will be "calculated and shared with Ofsted".
"The fact that the data is likely to be highly unreliable means that it should not be used to hold schools to account," he added.