Publish and be damned

17th November 2000 at 00:00
A study comparing randomly selected primary schools in England and Scotland reveals how the publication of league tables can be harmful. Researchers found that while schools in both countries wanted access to good data and felt they were under pressure to meet targets, the schools in England suffered because of the pressures of having the information published.

In contrast to schools in Scotland, where league tables are not published, headteachers and teachers in England reported a greater conflict between their own aims and external targets. They were also concerned about the risk of narrowing the curriculum, providing fewer opportunities for arts, PE and children's personal and social development. Resources tended to be focused on children likely o reach level 4 in the national tests - the level counted in the league tables - or those on the borderline. As a result, less attention was being paid to special needs pupils. And a growing blame culture was considered likely to create rifts within the teaching staff.

While the researchers don't lay all the ills of the English system at the feet of key stage 2 league tables, they do warn that the pressures from publicising performance data appears to have negative effects on the running of schools.

Dysfunctional Effects of Public Performance Indicator Systems: A Comparison Between English and Scottish Primary schools by Professor Peter Tymms, University of Durham. The report can be found at

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