Tables show grammars not so great;School League Tables;Results analysis

26th November 1999 at 00:00
MINISTERS have "missed a trick" in not providing information that could help the grammar-versus-comprehensive deb-ate, a Government data expert said this week.

Professor David Jesson, who recently produced controversial data questioning whether grammar schools really help gifted children, said ministers had mistakenly bowed to pressure from schools who preferred to be judged on their raw data.

It was a disappointment to those who had hoped to use the league tables to explore further the issue of which kind of system produced the best results.

"This appears to represent an act of surrender to those schools which, while 'doing well' on the raw scores measure were shown in a less favourable light by the 'fairer' progress measure," he said.

Professor Jesson, of York University's Centre for Performance Evaluation amp; Resource Management and a government adviser on league tables, compared last year's GCSE results against the same pupils' key stage 3 scores. The findings suggested that bright pupils did at least as well at comprehensive schools as at grammars, while those who ended up in secondary moderns did worse than their comprehensive peers.

He suggested a similar picture emerged from last year's published league tables through their value-added-measure symbols, even in the "anaemic" compromise form of a tick for the 25 per cent "best-performing" schools.

The 10 local authorities which still have selective education had fewer schools earning this mark than comprehensive authorities. And in total, only 13 per cent of grammar schools earned the mark.

This year, readers will have to scrutinise the comparative point scores and raw GCSE results. As the tables on page 3 show, some comprehensives outstrip grammar schools in these measures.

"The Department for Education and Employment should be more forthcoming on value-added," Professor Jesson said. "It should not deny parents information on the grounds that it is not perfect when they could provide something that could be very useful.

"If all schools had the progress measure published it would have given a much greater purchase on the whole issue of 'educational progress'."

Defenders of grammar schools who were queuing up to criticise his controversial findings had also lost ammunition. "If what I am saying needs to be contested - and I think it should be - we need more information.

"The Government has missed a trick by not presenting parents consistenly with this information."

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