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Small schools want results recognised

England's small schools are campaigning for changes in the way primary league tables are constructed, as the Department for Education and Employment prepares to publish a national list of schools on the Internet.

The Small Schools Association claims that a "chunk of potentially high scoring schools" have been left off the lists. They say this is because local education authorities do not publish results from schools with fewer than 11 pupils taking the key stage 2 tests.

LEAs say publication would be too expensive and low ability children could be identified individually, especially in rural communities. But the results are available to any interested parents who ask.

Mervyn Benford, of the Small Schools Association, says: "We wouldn't as an association back league tables anyway. But if they exist it does seem unfair that nobody knows how well the majority of small schools are doing,especially at a time of widespread closures by LEAs."

The association has collated all last year's figures for schools with no more than 100 pupils. They found that 66 per cent of pupils in small schools reached level 4 or above, compared to a national average of 57 per cent. In science it was 65 per cent in small schools and 54 per cent nationally. In maths it was 74 per cent against 62 per cent.

Gill Hudson, head of the 71- pupil Lewknor primary in Oxfordshire, had only five pupils take the tests this year. She says: "Last year we got 100 per cent in maths and English and only 66 per cent in science - which to parents looks like we have low quality science teaching. The truth is I had three pupils taking key stage 2. One was off sick on the day of the science test, and she accounted for 33 per cent of my scores. How ridiculous is that?" Andy Slater is head of the 88 pupil Salterlee primary in Calderdale. With 11 of his pupils taking key stage 2 tests this year, he only just scraped a listing in the LEA tables. He says: "Each of my pupils was worth just under 10 per cent of the overall mark. How can I be realistically compared to a school with 100 pupils taking the test, each worth 1 per cent?" Mr Slater is also worried about how small schools will cope with the Government's literacy and numeracy targets for 2000. He says he is not opposed to target setting on principle, "but once again, we'll look like the schools failing our children, which is not true and not fair. Statistics only work with large numbers".

Professor Maurice Gaulton, of Leicester University, has done research on small schools. He believes LEAs could protect children's privacy and control costs by publishing aggregate scores for all the small schools in an authority.

Professor Gaulton says: "The problem is no LEA wants to admit how good a lot of these schools really are, because they cost too much money to run. It's much easier for LEAs to argue that village schools can't deliver a full curriculum and close them down, than it is to accept the truth that they are mostly doing very well indeed."

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