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31st October 2003 at 00:00
The Education Minister has finally announced how he is to square the circle between his desire to axe the publication of school-by-school exam results and the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act that such data cannot be withheld.

Writing in this week's TES Scotland (left), Peter Peacock confirms our report (October 3) that the Scottish Executive will drop the annual publication of secondary school exam results. From mid-December, it will provide the information through school websites along with other details on how well a school is doing.

This will cover the five national priorities for education, which include progress in attainment but which also involve the quality of ethos and learning and teaching approaches as well as figures on discipline and attendance.

Although results for individual schools will continue to be available, the only tables that will be produced will be national and local authority figures which will not identify individual schools. These will be published in early November.

It is clear from Mr Peacock's comments that he is having to tread a delicate line between providing information and suppressing it. Website access to school handbooks, which already carry information on exam results, is now seen as the route by which parents can find full information about the performance of a school.

Mr Peacock says it is still important for parents to have access to information on a range of schools.

Reaction was mixed. The Scottish Parent Teacher Council said it was "a big shift" signalling the importance of making value judgments about schools which are not just about statistics. But the SNP said exam results could still be found online, and the Tories suggested this would be used to continue constructing "league" tables.

Mr Peacock, in a parliamentary written answer last week, stated: "Taken together, our commitments represent a comprehensive approach to extending access to all available data, including exam results. They move decisively away from simplistic comparisons of school performance using only exam results towards a rigorous but better balanced overall approach to the evaluation of school performance in Scotland."

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