Time to overturn those silly tables

28th January 2000 at 00:00
IT IS little wonder that even an Executive dedicated to digging for political capital in the thinnest of seams should make only a token effort with the sets of annual tables on school costs and leaver destinations (page five). The public has become wary of long lists of schools and the interpretation put upon them. Only the exam tables create any interest and they are as difficult to interpret meaningfully as the other largely ignored sets.

From every list lessons can be drawn but they are almost impossible to find, certainly for the layman. The expert, usually a local authority official who knows his schools intimately anyway, can see when an institution is not up to the mark or is is performing above expectation. Gleaning such messages when mot statistics reflect the nature of the school rather than the competence of its teachers and assiduity of the pupils is not worth the effort of producing the lists.

The most prosperous parts of the country send most pupils to higher education. But wait a moment, what about the state of the economy? It would be strange if some talented youngsters did not opt for employment rather than for three or four years at university, tuition fees or not.

Even school costs do not go much beyond proving that size matters. But building bigger schools to be cost effective is not possible because the demographic spread does not allow it, and the legacy of existing buildings, varyingly efficient to run, gives councils little scope for initiative.

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