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'Let's do away with the league'

Welsh Assembly discuss plans to abolish school performance tables in Wales. Karen Thornton reports

ENGLAND could find itself the only country in the UK to publish league tables, as the Welsh Assembly prepares to discuss abolishing them.

But it isn't all good news. Newly qualified Welsh teachers could find themselves having to complete a three-year probationary period before becoming fully-fledged staff, compared with the one year required of English NQTs.

Welsh NQTs could also get 10 per cent of their classroom time off for induction-related work. There are also proposals for leadership courses and career planning sessions.

Consultations close today on a discussion document issued by education and lifelong learning minister Jane Davidson, which proposes either abandoning publication of league tables or improving them by adding "value-added" measures to the data.

Meanwhile, teacher unions are urging the Welsh Assembly to follow Northern Ireland's lead on performance tables. Education minister Martin McGuinness has decided to discontinue tables there, after more than 1,000 consultation responses showed a 75 per cent majority opposed to them. Schools will supply exam results directly to parents.

Geraint Davies, Wales policy officer for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "We don't want thes school league tables - let's do away with them. They have been a pointless bureaucratic exercise which pits one school against another."

The National Union of Teachers Cymru also wants the tables abolished. It maintains that even with value-added measures, they would still be unfair to schools and have the "potential to mislead parents".

A spokesman said: "Performance tables encourage crude comparisons between schools, based on narrow measurements of achievement influenced by factors beyond the control of schools and teachers."

Under the first consultation option, the Welsh Assembly would continue to collect and collate performance data, but would not publish it centrally. The information would be available from individual schools.

However, plans to include value-added measures in the tables are likely to be more popular with government figures. The consultation proposes a progress measure comparing pupils' performance in key stage 2 national tests at age 11 with their GCSE results at 15, as well as an improvement indicator for schools based on average exam performance over three-year periods.

Also under consideration for revised tables are new benchmark comparisons, taking into account schools' socio-economic conditions, mainly based on free school meal figures.

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