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Pandering to the hunger for facts

Nicholas Pyke on the volumes of statistics sent to 24,000 schools by OFSTED

The curiously-named Panda annex is less colourful than it sounds. Twenty-four thousand schools now have this dull-looking tome which, formally published last week, provides table upon table of statistical detail.

The main aim of the Performance and Assessment reports is to help similar schools to compare their performance. But many of the tables compiled by the Office for Standards in Education make interesting, if dry, reading in their own right - the annex for secondary schools in particular.

The breakdown by free school meals - an indicator of poverty -is revealing. Children at nearly a third of schools with the biggest entitlement to free meals are not doing well. In fact only 2 per cent of such schools achieve very good standards.

To no one's surprise, these poverty-stricken schools are most likely to be comprehensives - 47 per cent - and least likely to be grammar schools - only 7 per cent.

Nor is it a surprise that grammar schools score extraordinarily well on OFSTED's ratings. This applies not just to the results, on which 94 per cent show good or very good standards among the pupils; nor just to the quality of education where the figure is 88 per cent. Even the ethos, or "climate"as it is referred to by OFSTED, is good or very good in 97 per cent of schools, compared with a 79 per cent rating in comprehensives.

The Panda tables repeat Government figures showing that black African pupils suffer high rates of permanent exclusion, at 18.4 per cent. They are followed by a black "other" category (more than 10 per cent) and black Caribbean (7.4 per cent). The white average is 3.6, close to the Pakistani average of 3.7.

Grammar schools are excluding comparatively few students, 0.5 per cent: secondary moderns on the other hand expel 4.6 per cent.

There are figures showing the favourable teacher:pupil ratios enjoyed by city technology colleges - and the comparatively ordinary ratios in grammar schools where the classes are the same size as those in comprehensives.

The Churches will be heartened by figures from the primary annex showing that Church of England and Roman Catholic primaries are much-praised by inspectors.

Fifty-four per cent of Anglican schools and 55 per cent of the Catholic primaries achieve good or very good standards.

This compares with a non-denominational average of 48 per cent. They also score well on "climate", 93 and 94 per cent respectively registering good or very good ratings.

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