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Heads publish own league tables to seize back control from ministers

A coalition of school leaders has launched a new initiative that will allow parents to create their own school performance league tables with the aim of protecting heads from political interference.

The new website will publish all data from this year’s GCSE results, and allow users to rank school performance according to criteria of their choice. Controversially, the initiative will ignore the government’s policy of not counting exam resits in performance tables and will include the grades from students’ subsequent attempts.

The organisations behind the initiative – the NAHT heads’ union, the Association of School and College Leaders, academy chain United Learning and school leaders’ organisation PiXL – hope that it will eventually expand the data to include other qualifications such as IGCSEs, which will be excluded from official league tables from 2017 onwards.

Wider information not related to formal qualifications will also be included, which could see schools judged according to criteria such as class sizes, extra-curricular provision and even how well they teach qualities such as “resilience” and “confidence”.

A consultation with parents will be conducted through the Mumsnet website to find out what performance measures they would like to see included.

While the final official GCSE results data is published by the Department for Education in January, the new project aims to release the full set of figures in the autumn term by asking schools to supply their data individually.

Jon Coles, chief executive of United Learning and a former senior civil servant in the Department for Education, said that although it was “very unlikely than 100 per cent of schools will be in it”, there was “huge demand” from both parents and schools for a wider data set to be made available.

“The tables have become less a way of giving parents the information they want and more an arms-length policy lever by which successive governments have sought to influence the decisions heads take about how to run their schools,” he said.

“This is too crude an approach to defining a great school or encouraging improvement… What parents want to know and what heads want to offer is much greater than the predominant focus on any single measure would suggest.  Exam data is of course a key element of this, but it’s not the only one that parents are interested in and it’s not the only one that defines how well a school is doing.”

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: “Schools must be accountable, but the government's performance tables have become a sledgehammer to crack the system – too often serving political aims rather than pupils' needs and driving the wrong decisions.

"This initiative will, over time, give parents stable, accurate and neutral information about schools. It is good to see the school leaders seizing the initiative and building a connection to parents that bypasses all the politics.”

Having more data would give schools the “moral courage” to “maintain their course through the government’s changes”, without having to overhaul their provision according to a ministerial whims, Mr Hobby added.

“They will have an alternative source of information about how well they’re doing which will give heads the confidence to say, ‘You know what, even though you’ve changed this, I am not changing what I’m doing in my school because I believe it’s right and I’ve got something to show you to prove the results I’m getting’.”

Related stories:

Ofqual chief warns of exam results rollercoaster - August 2014

Early GCSE entries fall dramatically - May 2014

Schools face five solid years of constant exam revolution - April 2014

GCSEs: 'Pass' grades to get tougher and new recognition for 'exceptional' pupils - April 2014

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