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Last outing for league tables

New value-added approach aims to end distortions and will give subject by subject analysis

The Scottish Office will confirm next week that national tables of raw exam results are to move significantly towards a value-added approach. Under the new arrangements parents will be provided with substantially more information on school performance and the spotlight turned on results achieved by subject departments.

Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, is also believed to be considering whether the much vilified exam tables, due to be issued on Tuesday, should continue to be published nationally. Mr Wilson intends, however, to consult his action group on standards before taking a final decision.

As forecast in The TES Scotland on September 12, Mr Wilson wants to depart from reliance on raw results by providing more detail on how schools are performing. But this year's results will not, as previously envisaged, include information on how each school has added value for pupils in taking them from Standard grade to Higher.

He has accepted advice that a score which aggregates the results of all departments to produce a single value-added measure would produce wild distortions. A school could end up with an impressive result that disguised below par performances in a number of subjects.

Instead each school will be issued with "parent-friendly" details of departmental performance in a customised booklet. This will show which departments add value as pupils go from Standard grade to Highers in fifth year and will make comparisons with the subject average across Scotland.

Two other tables will show the performance of pupils in each Standard grade and Higher subject compared with how they did in other subjects at those levels within the same schools, the so-called "relative ratings". This will allow schools to identify strong and weak departments, tracking trends over a three-year period. Every school board will be made aware of the details.

The exercise is an attempt to bridge the political and educational imperatives. Mr Wilson's antipathy to raw results and league tables has been given a respectable educational outlet. He reinforced his hostility again in a speech in Aberdeen last week and stressed: "We need more than comparisons of schools' performance, based on actual results or raw data, however useful".

Mr Wilson will now be able to demonstrate his latest moves are far from being a soft option since results in individual subjects will place poor teaching and poorly led departments under scrutiny. Mr Wilson regards it as forcing schools to face up to their own performance in a continuation of the "self-evaluation" regime that distinguishes the Scottish approach from the English.

Although councils reject some of the proposed targets, their chief spokesperson said she was "relaxed" about any move away from nationally published school exam results. "They would have withered on the vine anyway, " Elizabeth Maginnis said.

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