Beware raw meal statistics;Letter

5th June 1998 at 01:00
I wish to raise again the issue of secondary school targets based on the uptake of free school meals.

You report (TESS, May 22) that Douglas Osler, head of the Inspectorate, believes that targets must be published because of the Freedom of Information Act. Does this, I wonder, apply to misinformation?

The percentage uptake of free school meals and the "raw" examination results are factual data. The rest appears to be erroneous interpretation. Arguments that the free school meal criterion is the "best we've got" or "a step in the right direction" are irrelevant because, used alone, it completely fails to deliver a reliable basis for target-setting.

For an authoritative account of why this is the case, I would refer readers to the article by Linda Croxford of the Centre for Educational Sociology, Edinburgh University (TESS, December 19).

If these serious criticisms cannot be refuted, the proposed method of target-setting should be abandoned with the frank admission that mistakes have been made. If this is not done, I wonder how Douglas Osler would react to the following scenario: the press demands and gets not only the targets, but the exact position of all the schools on the free school meals-Standard grade results scattergrams.

A newspaper article then states: "The HMI Audit Unit has created a level playing field on which schools can be fairly compared. We can now name the schools offering the best quality education in Scotland. We also name the worst schools, ask why HM Inspectorate has done nothing up to now about the outrageous way these schools let down their pupils, and demand immediate action to remedy the situation."

Michael Davenport. Bank Road, East Linton

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