Primary School league tables don't tell the whole story

Before people say I am biased against league tables because I am a teacher, I should make clear that this is, in part correct. However, I do not oppose them simply because I am a teacher but instead because being a teacher has shown me at first hand just why they are so ludicrous.

Today the papers, and in partiuclar local papers, are full of who is best and who is worst in their areas, a completely demoralising day for people who work very hard in schools at the bottom of the lists, with much back slapping, no doubt for those at the top. But the league tables tell us nothing about the teaching, the aspirations the children and the parents of the children have and what sort of area each school is in.

I've worked in a various areas in Norfolk, village commuter belt "well to do" parts outside Norwich, small towns and inner city schools. The teaching required at each has been markedly different. The leafy suburban school required little disciplinary effort, I was teaching the sons and daughters of doctors, solicitors, people who ran their own businesses, generally children who didn't have to worry about whether they were going to be fed or if their parents would have mony for Christmas. There were few after school clubs, children were picked up in 4x4's at the gates, it was, an easy school to teach at. I enjoyed it a lot.

My current school is a model of what a good inner city school in what is labelled a "difficult" area of Norwich schould be. Supportive, part of the community, a real emphasis on behaviour, a "good" Ofsted report, after school clubs every afternoon after school. 99% of pupils arrive on foot, there is enormous social deprivation and it is in just about every way an area that although just five miles from the other school, could be described as being a million miles away. However, I've never had to work so hard in my life, it is hard, but enormously enjoyable and rewarding. We all work our socks off to provide a decent education and for some children, the only stability in their lives.

I'll leave you to guess which school came higher in the league tables published today. Of course a league table cannot measure everything, but if it could measure hard work, effort, turning some of the most difficult children round and offering a real future to young people who can have no aspirations what so ever, then we'd be top, by a mile.

So that is why I don't like school league tables. They rate and record what is measurable, not what is important !


Andrew Allison. A Conservative View said...

Absolutely, 100%, correct. This government is obsessed with league tables. I personally know of a few schools in Hull that have been turned around marvellously in recent years. I have just been appointed a governor of a school that years ago was regarded as not very good and is now one of the best in the city. All of that is down to the dedication and hard work of teachers, parents, and governors. Everyone working together for the good of the school and the community.

Of course, the best school in the area - according to the league tables - is a private school; and that is what you would expect. As you said on your blog, teaching the children of the professional classes is going to be far easier than teaching children who have deprived backgrounds.

I would like your opinion on one thing though. How much should we value Ofsted reports?

Liberal Neil said...

Quite right Nich.

League tables of raw results tell you a lot about the relative wealth of the catchment area and b***er all about the standard of the school.

All they do is encourage more of the parents who care to move their kids from schools with lower raw results to those with higher raw results, exacerbating the gap between them.

Norfolk Blogger said...

The new Ofsted regime is a vast improvement. Just 5 days notice, more opinion taken of the school's own self evalutation, more input from the local authority and from my last Ofsted (April) a clear understanding from the inspectors that:
a) They understood the area we were in and, as a result, the challenges
b) They came in with a view to finding what was good and how they could help us along by setting clear targets that the school and Ofsted felt were achievable and would really make a difference.

The new 2 day Ofsted is, therefore a vast improvement and has some value, but is not the whole story.

Billy Boy said...

Nich - tell us how your school did compared to the leafy suburbs in the Value-added Table?

How did they do in the Ofsted you mentioned?