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Primary tables to be published

Publication of the controversial primary league tables will go ahead next week despite Government protestations against the wastefulness of such a massive exercise.

Almost all the national dailies will print results from the 132 local education authorities in England, compiled by a national news agency, showing how the nation's 11-year-olds have fared in their key stage 2 tests. The results, which last year were collated by the Department for Education and Employment, are based on tests taken in English, maths and science.

The DFEE plans to place the information from the LEAs on its Web site in February. The TES will publish a supplement next week.

The performance tables give the proportion of pupils reaching Level 4 - the expected standard - and above. They do not say what proportion of pupils reach Level 5, which shows that a child is two years above the standard. Another criticism from local authorities is that there is no or little information about the schools' social context.

When the tables appeared for the first time last year, the Conservatives trumpeted them as a way of ratcheting up standards, by making schools more accountable and more competitive.

But parents were given a "health warning" by the National Association of Head Teachers which in January 1996 lost a High Court challenge to aspects of the league tables.

When the national aggregate figures appeared in September, Estelle Morris, education minister, welcomed the results. They showed progress towards Government targets that 80 per cent of 11-year-olds should achieve Level 4 in English by 2002, with 75 per cent reaching the same level in maths. In English and maths, more than 60 per cent reached the required level, while in science almost 70 per cent did so.

In Manchester, the results have given particular cause for celebration as the tables showed that children were improving at a faster rate than at the national level, closing the performance gap by 3 per cent.

One of the more outstanding successes was Manchester's St Luke's, which last year found itself among the worst 20 schools. The latest figures revealed that the school's average had risen by as much as 82 per cent in maths.

David Whitbread, head of education at the Local Government Association, said this week: "We believe it is right and helpful for LEAs to provide this information as local tables are far more useful anyway for parents and schools alike. It makes it easier to include extra information about the schools which sheds more light on each school's performance. It will, however, be a long time before the context of each school is adequately given."

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