Give us more results

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Welsh parents support call for extra information on pupils' scores. Karen Thornton reports

Two-thirds of parents in Wales support the English chief inspector of schools' call for more information to be provided about Welsh pupils' test results.

David Bell claimed last week that Welsh politicians had let parents down by deciding not to publish tables of school test results. Wales has never had them for primaries, and secondary tables were dropped in 2002.

The Welsh Assembly government has defended its policy, saying tables can be demoralising for teachers, damaging to pupils and misinterpreted by parents. The teaching unions also oppose publication of test results school by school. But 67 per cent of Welsh parents surveyed by TES Cymru want to see tables of results to help them compare schools when choosing one for their children.

Tables were particularly popular with fathers (70 per cent) and parents living in north or west Wales (71 per cent).

The findings emerged as research in England claimed that value-added measures used in primary school tables are misleading. The National Association of Head Teachers has called for them to be dropped (see page 4).

However, parts of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 coming into effect in January will allow anyone to request schools' results from public bodies that hold them - notably local education authorities and the Welsh Assembly.

The Scottish executive, originally determined to drop tables, revised its plans when it became clear they could clash with the Act. It now publishes a wide range of data for schools at www.parentzone.scotland.gov.uk

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish information commissioner, said: "People are capable of trawling through this site and coming up with a table, but it is not its primary use. A nanny view of what people are capable of understanding or not is not a reason for withholding information. There is no exemption for embarrassment, ignorance or misinterpretation by parents, media or anyone else."

However, the Welsh Assembly government believes requests for league table-style information will be exempt under the Act because the information is "reasonably accessible by other means" - in other words, from schools.

Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, added: "The tables did not take account of socio-economic issues, and encouraged parents to make simplistic comparisons between schools. " Anne Jones, assistant commissioner (for freedom of information) in Wales, said her office would expect local education authorities and the Assembly to make available the information they hold on request. But it would be up to them to decide the format.

Most unions remain fiercely opposed to tables. Brian Rowlands, secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association Cymru, said: "Tables don't take into account schools' differing intakes and value added. But all the information parents need is given to them."

Geraint Davies, secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Cymru, said: "All those tables do is unfairly compare one school against another. Since abolishing them in Wales, standards and exam results have improved."

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