League tables that penalise perfection

24th October 2003 at 01:00
The Department for Education and Skills' attempt to include "value-added" indicators in forthcoming performance tables is to be applauded. But further scrutiny reveals they are less than fair to many schools.

Unfortunately a level 5 "ceiling effect" prevents the recognition of value added for a significant group of children. For example, a child attaining level 3 for all tests at the end of key stage 1, and, four years later, level 5 at key stage 2, is awarded a value-added level of... zero. This suggests that the child has progressed at the rate expected; however, the measure does not allow for extended value, which for many of these children would be the case.

Imagine an ideal school scenario where every child in a year group achieves level 3 in all KS1 tests; effective teaching in KS2 culminates in the same group achieving all level 5s at KS2. The aggregate value-added for this perfect situation would be a "satisfactory" zero.

It should also be acknowledged that schools with high value-added indicators on this analysis may be harbouring a less than effective KS1 department.

Although schools will be able to reconcile these flawed measures professionally, in the public arena the tables will, once more, lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation, particularly from parents and governors.

George Barber Head Yarm county primary school Spitalfields Yarm Stockton-on-Tees

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