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Tables fail to do justice to schools, ministers admit

League tables and Ofsted reports are failing to provide a true representation of school performance, the Government admitted this week.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families also acknowledged that the focus on particular threshold measures, such as the five A*-C GCSEs benchmark, is leading to too much emphasis on "borderline" pupils.

The admissions came as the Government began consulting on the details of the School Report Card, a plan for fairer school accountability with a wider view of performance first revealed in The TES in September.

Introducing the proposal, the 21st Century Schools document says: "Despite developments in the current accountability system for schools, there are still issues that need to be addressed." Parents could find information about schools' performance on "wider outcomes" hard to obtain, the document says. "Similarly, schools are often unrecognised and unrewarded for improvements they make to children's lives, which do not show up in traditional educational attainment measures."

Threshold measures were important in making sure pupils did not fall behind, but could "result in too little emphasis on pupils whose performance is either well above or well below the borderline."

The school report card, inspired by American "balanced scorecards", would give schools an overall grade or "traffic light" rating based on a wide range of measures.

These could include parents' and pupils' views, Ofsted ratings, measures of pupil health and safety and enjoyment and the school's success in narrowing the attainment gap suffered by disadvantaged pupils. Such factors would feature alongside alongside exam results.

Unions have already given the report cards plan a cool reception. Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT, said: "I am at a loss to understand what purpose the proposed School Report Card serves, or what problem it solves."

John Dunford, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, said school performance was too complex to be reduced to a single grade.

Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, said that the Government would continue to publish the statistics used for league tables. But it would be up to the media to decide whether it continued to compile them.

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