Time is ripe for review of league tables

19th January 1996 at 00:00
Does the Government realise, I wonder, what impact its latest initiatives will have on the validity of school league tables? Increased selection procedures and interviews with parents (the latter also now being promoted by Labour) will introduce powerful new variables between schools and further undermine the already shaky validity of such tables.

In fact, with these developments occurring just as the furore which followed the publication of the last set of tables is abating, the time might be ripe for taking a more comprehensive look at the league table phenomenon. This is especially so as the Government has not ruled out the possibility of extending them to the primary sector.

If you accept that some children are innately more intelligent than others the unfairness of such tables becomes obvious. Those schools with high numbers of very intelligent children will have an enormous advantage when it comes to academic results.

League tables take no account of the progress children have made in a school. Children could quite possibly make more progress in a school lower in a table than those in a school in a high position. You need to know the starting base.

Nobody has a right to misinformation that can cause undeserved humiliation and undermine some good teachers' careers. Pressing schools to gain better exam results under the threat of public humiliation can have dangerous side effects. If this unworthy practice were ever to be unleashed on the primary sector valuable extra-curricular activities and even standards in the foundation subjects could be sacrificed in an attempt to attain enough extra marks in core subjects to enable a school to scramble a few places up the table. Cramming could ensue in which children were overfilled with information, which, by the pressurised way in which it was taught, would be soon forgotten after the tests.

I would put this question to parents. In one situation a group of schools work together, sharing resources. Good teachers in some schools help lesser teachers in others. Headteachers learn from one another. All work together to give all of the children a better deal. In the other situation all schools oppose one another, seek ways to outdo each other in a frantic effort to grab a few places in a league table.Which of the above is the more sensible, positive, constructive and desirable option?

DAVID E BATLEY

Headteacher

Woodlands middle school

Bradwell

Norfolk

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