Professor warns of league table snub

Geraldine Hackett

The Government's chief adviser on value-added performance tables is pressing for schools to be allowed to remove some pupils' results from their final score.

Professor Carol Fitz-gibbon, director of the value added national project, fears that the Government is deliberately not asking schools about disregarding the results of children who have been absent for long periods or those unable to stand the pressure of tests.

Consultation on the Government's plans to publish performance tables that take account of school intake is due to finish next week. However, Professor Fitz-gibbon says schools have only been given a consultation paper and not her 130-page report.

She says they have therefore missed the recommendation that schools should be allowed to exclude some pupils from value-added calculations, subject to audit by inspectors.

Professor Fitz-gibbon argues that unless schools can exempt certain pupils, they will try to get rid of children who are not making progress. "Society may reap the whirlwind later if difficult or troubled pupils are excluded in large numbers or shunted into sink schools," she says.

Professor Fitz-gibbon says that pupils who have missed a lot of school either as a result of ill health or truanting or those who do not respond well to the pressure of tests should be identified before the tests are taken. Inspectors should check that the selection is based on professional judgements, she says.

Professor Fitz-gibbon is also critical of the Government's decision to use value-added measures when setting targets for schools. Her objection is based on the fact that value-added scores vary from year to year. She says: "Teachers may end up simply playing a lottery in setting targets. If their jobs depend upon meeting targets, it will be a dangerous game to play."

The first value-added tables for secondary schools are expected next year.

The Value Added National Project final report (reference: COM97844) is available from SCAA publications 0181 867 3299 along with three technical reports for secondary schools and four techncal reports for primary schools.

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