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Northern Ireland scraps 'divisive' league tables

English ministers are unmoved by Martin McGuinness's 'excellent precedent'. Karen Thornton reports

School league tables should be scrapped in England and Wales, following the example set this week by Northern Ireland, say teacher unions.

Tables will no longer be published in the province, after more than 1,000 consultation responses showed a 75 per cent majority opposed to them. Instead, schools will supply details of exam results directly to parents.

Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's education minister, said: "Many respondents felt the tables were divisive and failed to offer schools the opportunity to give parents a rounded picture.

"In future, schools will be able to set their performance in the context of information on the school as a whole. I am convinced that this decision is the right one for our schols and parents."

The province has published tables of results of key stage 2 tests and GCSEs since 1993, just like England and Wales. The move brings it in line with the Republic of Ireland, which has banned their publication.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "This sets an excellent precedent for the rest of the country. Standards of education in Northern Ireland have always been a bit above the rest of the UK, and I am sure they won't suffer as a consequence of this wise decision."

But a Department for Education and Employment spokesman said: "Ministers here are fully committed to the continued publication of tables as they provide valuable information for parents on performance, which is a central part of the standards agenda."

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