The Government will launch national templates for schools to compare themselves with others in similar social circumstances as part of its target-setting drive, it will be announced later this month.
Education Secretary Gillian Shephard has already indicated schools will be expected to set their own targets for improvement against nationally-produced benchmarks. She will be making a detailed statement later this month.
It now seems likely this will involve schools receiving unprecedented levels of technical analysis from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, including comparisons across different social and educational categories.
SCAA has already produced age-standardised charts for its national curriculum test results. And a spokesman this week said that the authority is working on further calibration to allow an anlysis of pupil progress between key stages.
The Office for Standards in Education may also have a part to play as it has been compiling a vast database on the social context of individual schools.
John Dunford, past president of the Secondary Heads Association, said that there is already sufficient detail in the system to give detailed breakdowns of school performance set against others in similar circumstances.
SHA has been advocating school self-review as a part of the future programme of national inspections. Setting and publishing targets for schools, and individual departments within those schools, is a central part of this.
Mr Dunford backed the Government's target-setting initiative. Schools, he said, will be happy to publish details of what they hope to achieve - many do so already.
Local authority involvement will prove one of the more interesting aspects of the initiative. LEAs have frequently found themselves sidelined in new policy developments. But in this case their participation is accepted as central, said a spokesman for SCAA.