Performance tables have a toxic effect

6th January 2012 at 00:00

That league tables seem destined to be extended rather than curtailed by the current government will generate consternation and incredulity across the education world ("Primaries fear endless league tables if key stage is split apart", 23 December).

These performance tables constitute an extraordinary cultural phenomenon, one that most authorities concede was created solely for the benefit of politicians and that yields pretty much meaningless data in practice. These tables generate all manner of noxious, unintended consequences that comprehensively dwarf any benefits they might bring. In trying to understand their mystifying longevity, perhaps the answer is that there are now too many vested interests involved, too much fear leading to a "devil we know" mentality and an impoverishment of the imagination that this system itself inevitably generates.

One of this culture's most toxic consequences is its impact on students entering higher education. We urgently need reputable, longitudinal research to examine the effect of the performance culture on students' capacity for independent learning and thought, which many believe is being severely denuded by a regime that inculcates compliance at the expense of imagination, creativity and resourcefulness.

Dr Richard House, Senior lecturer, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University, London.

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