A minus has no measure

28th February 2003 at 00:00
SCHOOLS may be unable to raise attainment and reduce inequalities if they have no accurate means of assessing the impact of differences such as gender and poverty.

Linda Croxford, of the Centre for Educational Sociology at Edinburgh University, will today (Friday) tell a conference on tackling inequalities through better measurement that Scotland still has no system in place, despite the commitments on inclusion and equality in the five national priorities.

Dr Croxford appeals for a value-added approach as soon as children enter the formal school system. Information about inequalities needs to be collected and incorporated into performance monitoring, she states in a pre-conference paper.

"Such factors include gender, age, special educational needs, ethnicity, poverty, family structure such as lone-parent families and looked-after children. However, although information about gender, age and special needs is commonly collected, little information about other inequalities is collected or analysed by schools and local authorities," she states.

Indicators such as free school meal entitlement and clothing grant are said to be "very unreliable".

Dr Croxford argues that schools need to be able to measure inequalities before they can tackle them, citing recent research on gender differences which has led many schools to focus on underachievement by boys.

She maintains that analysis of performance based on individual pupil data, including prior attainment, can give an overall picture of the differences between those living in poverty and their more affluent peers, or between black and white pupils.

Based on her studies of the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) baseline testing in Aberdeen, she argues that a value-added approach can reveal the extent to which initial gaps grow wider or the effects of various interventions.

It would also be possible to measure school performance based on intake.

More evidence would allow teachers to introduce extra compensatory sessions such as reading recovery programmes.

* Dr Croxford further questions the pressure on schools to set in S1 and S2 to raise the performance of high ability pupils. "Unfortunately, there has been little or no measurement of progress in S1-S2 either before or after these developments, and no measurement of the impact of changes in class organisation on inequality."

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