School league tables for 11-year-olds, which include children with special needs and pupils who were absent, were criticised by the National Association of Head Teachers in a letter to the Education and Employment Secretary.
The NAHT says the 1996 tables show 900 schools had an average of 10 per cent or more of their 11-year-olds absent for the tests. Nearly 3,000 had 5 per cent or more absent.
NAHTgeneral secretary David Hart said: "The vast majority of pupils with statements of special educational need will struggle to achieve level 4 . . . Absent pupils would, in many cases, have achieved level 4 or above; yet, in effect, they record a zero score. This artificially depresses the results, gives a false impression of the schools' performances and makes a mockery of the whole exercise."