Wales loses out as editor blames lack of performance tables
THE EDITOR of one of the UK's most respected guides to the best schools in the UK has called for the "hated" league tables to be re-instated in Wales.
It comes as the latest edition of The Good Schools Guide 2007 fails to list one Welsh mainstream state school in its contents. Editor Ralph Lucas admitted the absence of performance tables in Wales had made it too difficult to judge state schools. But he also said a shortage of parents willing to provide information had made it virtually impossible to include any school.
He concluded that the Welsh appeared to be a lot more "contented and confident" with their lot in education. However, he said a return to league tables could bring recognition over the border and glory for good schools.
"In Wales, the spirit appears to be to send your children to the local school," he said. "The system discourages choice."
The Good Schools Guide claims to rate schools "from a parent's point of view" and not be influenced by academic results alone.
A team of 50 editors research schools in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. This year there were 800 schools included in the guide, which can carry personal information on heads, including hobbies and even their partner's job.
But there has been criticism from heads who complain that the guide is too subjective and leaves too much open to interpretation. Mr Lucas admits the inclusion of schools is "entirely personal" and that just because one is not listed does not mean it is bad.
Nine private schools from Wales, however, did make the edition. Among them was Christ College, Brecon, Atlantic College in the Vale of Glamorgan and St David's College in Llandudno.
Others included were Haberdashers' Monmouth school for girls and Monmouth school, both in Monmouth, and Cardiff's Howell's school.
Special educational needs provision at seven state schools was also listed in a sister guide for 2007, including Cardiff high school, Bryn CP school in Llanelli, and Swansea's Brynmill primary school.
Performance tables were scrapped in Wales in 2001 after a public consultation. At the time Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, said the tables could be "devisive and demoralising"
She said it could lead to schools focusing on exam results at the expense of the wider curriculum.
There are also fears that a return to league tables could create competition between schools. However, data was made available via the Assembly government's website in November 2005.
Before Christmas it emerged that exam results and teacher assessments for every primary and secondary school in Wales had been published online for the first time since tables were abolished.
The Good Schools Guide 2007 also includes free access to searchable databases covering all UK schools.