It was most illuminating to read the Observer last week in which it "reveals the country's leading state schools, where children enjoy an education that works". There was a very workmanlike piece on Jordanhill School in Glasgow and, er, that was it. What we were treated to, under the banner of "Britain's Best Schools", was in fact England's "best" schools. They were ranked into tables using the mysteries of the English "key stage" and GCSE points systems - utterly irrelevant north of the border.
Two of the four tables did at least attempt rankings by value-added scores - although what sense the newspaper's readers would have made of that is anybody's guess. There was no information on the schools, on what made them successful, on the general achievements of pupils as opposed to attainment, on the many threads that are woven into the tapestry of a school's life. At least the Scottish Executive, while publishing information on exam results but not in tabular form, encourages parents and others to look at schools in the round.
What a world away this is from the serious business of genuine school improvement. As we report this week (pages three and six), there remains a stubborn "opportunity gap". Improvements are certainly evident but, where the most able show gains as well as the less able, the gap remains. There are as many strategies to tackle this as there are schools, and they should be allowed to get on with it free from fears that they will slip down spurious leagues.