US-style report card scheme torn up

3rd September 2010 at 01:00
Initiative has `non-existent' future, according to insiders

Plans to hold schools accountable with US-style "report cards" have been dropped by the coalition Government, The TES has learnt.

No official announcement has been made, but insiders say the initiative - a troubled attempt to offer a wider measure of school performance - has a "non-existent" future under the current administration.

The cards, inspired by a scheme in New York, were first taken up in 2008 by the then Labour government, which was keen to find a way of shifting school accountability away from the narrow focus of league tables.

Back then, teachers' leaders gave the idea a cautious welcome in principle. But the intervening years have seen them go cool on the idea as ministers insisted on the use of a single grade to rate schools and the inclusion of measures of wider pupil well-being.

This week they welcomed the end of the scheme, but remain wary of what the Coalition will replace it with.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "We had considerable concerns about the way the report card was evolving.

"It had started off as a relatively simple idea but was rapidly becoming complex, and another layer of accountability on top of everything else and that would have been unacceptable."

The report cards were due to be introduced next year. But the legislation needed to introduce the scheme was lost in the run-up to the May general election and the Coalition would have had to introduce new laws to continue with it.

The cards were supposed to give a fairer annual summary of schools' performance by including data on indicators such as pupil opinions, attendance and comparisons with similar schools, alongside test and exam results.

But unions feared ministers had begun to extend the scope of the cards beyond what schools could legitimately be held responsible for.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We had doubts about the range of pupil well-being indicators, whether they could be measured and whether they were anything more than a measure of the social class, which schools have no control over."

Labour ministers made it clear they had no intention of ending the publication of league tables, but hoped the report cards could emerge as a viable alternative.

Despite fierce opposition from unions and the Commons education select committee, they insisted the information on the card be summed up with a single A-F or A-D grade so they could be used to rank schools.

The Coalition is working on plans to reform school league tables and accountability, being published in a white paper in the autumn.

Last year Michael Gove, now Education Secretary, criticised the proposed report cards for being "fuzzy" and detracting from the "central elements of a school performance".

But Dr Bousted is concerned there is too much focus on academic results. A Department for Education spokesman said: "We are looking at the issue of school accountability."

  • Original headline: `Unacceptable' US-style report card scheme torn up by Coalition

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