Must do better: teachers give verdict on plans for report cards

19th February 2010 at 00:00
More than a third believe government scheme to assess school performance is a bad idea, while a further 23 per cent are unsure

Teachers are unconvinced by Government plans for American-style school report cards, new research shows.

A survey of nearly 1,400 teachers for the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that more than a third of teachers thought the cards, designed as an alternative to league tables, were not a good idea.

Another 23 per cent said they were uncertain about their benefits.

The plans to introduce the cards, first revealed by The TES in 2008, were inspired by a New York scheme and are meant to give parents a fairer summary of a school's performance. They include data on indicators such as pupil opinions, attendance and comparisons with similar schools, alongside test and exam results.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) wants to introduce report cards in England next year after a two-year pilot. But the NFER research shows the department still has work to do to win over teachers.

The report concludes: "With 37 per cent of teachers saying that the report card is not a good idea, and 23 per cent saying that they were unsure, it is clear that a majority of teachers are uncertain about the benefits of the introduction of the school report card.

"Comments included that there is already sufficient monitoring of schools taking place and that current school literature, such as prospectuses, contains sufficient information of this nature."

Asked what indicators should be included, at least 79 per cent of teachers thought pupil attainment, progress, well-being and behaviour, the curriculum and parent and pupil views were all important.

NFER researcher Sarah Maughan said: "It's interesting that teachers' views about what the school report card should include are in line with the Government's proposals.

"However, with roughly a third of teachers being unsure about the report card, it's clear that the DCSF needs to give them more information about this significant change in reporting schools' achievements."

But teachers were not asked about the most controversial aspect of the cards - the idea of using a single grade to sum up a school's performance across such a variety of indicators.

The DCSF said a single grade is necessary to give the cards any chance of competing with the current "relentless focus on a single academic indicator" in school league tables, so that the public has a broader account of what schools do.

But teachers' leaders argue a single grade would be crude and could mislead parents.

Their case was bolstered when it emerged that New York was already planning to change its system after just three years of operation.

In September, 97 per cent of the city's elementary and middle schools achieved either an A or B grade on their report cards, rendering the grades virtually useless for helping parents to choose between schools.

This week Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "Teachers are right to be uncertain over the benefits of school report cards. ATL is working with the Government to ensure that they will be fit for purpose before their introduction. But we continue to have concerns about judging everything a school does with a single grade."

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