Schools To Publish Alternative League Tables

Teenage girls in secondary school class at school heads down taking test/exam
Teenage girls in secondary school class at school heads down taking test/exam

Schools are to publish alternative league tables to give parents a 'fuller picture' of their children's education by focusing on issues such as extra-curricular activities, class sizes and sport.

Head teachers' unions said new rankings would be released in the autumn and would be designed to give parents more of an overview of a school's performance, because they say official government rankings are 'too crude'.

Tables covering more than 3,000 state secondary schools in England will be developed over the next three years to feature a range of information beyond GCSE results, which are out next week (August 21).

For example, tables could rank schools on the availability of extra-curricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, the number of times children play team sport, access to musical instruments, class sizes and which subjects are prioritised in the curriculum.

The proposals for alternative league tables, to be published on a free website, are being put forward by the Association of School and College Leaders, the National Association of Head Teachers and the United Learning group, which runs academies and independent schools.They will begin with secondary school results from this summer's GCSE exams - with the aim of 'bypassing' political involvement in school data.

The planned alternative league tables would be published by schools earlier than the official tables, when parents were making school choices for the following year.

The heads say they want to present an independent and more inclusive view of schools - arguing that it will be more objective than the measures chosen by the government.

They argue that the way that league tables are now assembled is too closely aligned to promoting government policy.

United Learning's chief executive, Jon Coles, said: "The tables have become less a way of giving parents the information they want and more an arms-length policy lever by which successive governments have sought to influence the decisions heads take about how to run their schools.

"This is too crude an approach to defining a great school or encouraging improvement and at different times, it has been detrimental in different ways.

"For example, promoting too much focus on the C/D borderline, especially in English and maths, or promoting choices of qualification which do not serve individual children well."

Another example has been the government's decision for league tables to recognise only a pupil's first entry in exams, as a way of deterring schools from entering younger pupils for exams and then retaking if they want to improve results.

Heads' leader Brian Lightman said the current league tables "do not tell the whole story".

Mr Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says that 'the final results are the ones that really matter' and this should be available to parents.

He said: "We want parents to have access to data they can use in a format they can use it."

A Department of Education spokesman said: "We agree that information about school performance should be freely available to parents. That's why we have taken steps to make our league tables clearer and, in addition to our data, all schools must publish extensive information on their website - including pupil progress.

"Our tables are only published after robust checks so parents know the information we are giving them is accurate.

"Children should not be entered for exams before they're ready, and then for re-sits, or other exams in the same subject. Making more use of end-of-course exams for GCSEs will remove the incentive to game the system in this way."

Tamsin Kelly, Editor of Parentdish, says: 'Parents don't make decisions based purely on league tables of exam results. They're mildly interesting if you've got time to pore through page after page of school tables, but parents will be looking at what school best suits their own individual child and can only discover that by visiting schools and talking to teachers, present pupils and parents.

'Our school finder is an excellent way to start the process of choosing a school by comparing schools closest to your postal code and according to different criteria.'