Government use of school league tables completely unjustified

May 29, 2008

Parents and teachers should not rely on school league tables to judge how good, or bad, a school is, according to research published today.

Since the early 1990s school league tables have been published in the UK, leading parents to start searching for the ‘best’ school for their child. Whilst no longer published in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, their use has continued in England.

The first league tables used raw data from exam results and they have now graduated to a ranking system using ‘contextual value-added points’ which take into account factors such as prior achievements of pupils, lack of spoken English at home and even eligibility for free school meals.

Statisticians from the University of Bristol looked at the GCSE scores of secondary schools in England, and compared the ‘value added’ scores with simple GCSE averages and show that these can differ substantially.

Professor Harvey Goldstein, lead author of the study, from the Centre for Multilevel Modelling at the University of Bristol said, “By publishing both sets of data, schools can pick and choose which version they use and parents need to be aware of what they are looking at.”

The key finding of their research, however, is that when it comes to choosing a school, what matters is the future performance when those about to start secondary school will take their GCSE exams – some 6 years later. When these ‘predictions’ are taken into account it turns out that less than 5% of schools could be significantly separated from the average or from each other.

“The general use of league tables, whether for schools, police forces or hospitals, rests on shaky scientific foundations and the current evidence suggests that they cannot safely be used for the purposes put forward by the government in terms of institutional choice or accountability,” added Goldstein. “From the results of our study it is clear that the government should take note of the evidence and cease the production and present use of school league tables.”

Source: Wiley

Explore further: NTU and UNESCO to create mini-lab kits for youths in developing countries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Why cash incentives aren't a good idea in education

Oct 09, 2014

If there is one iron law of economics it is this: people respond to incentives. Offer an "all you can eat" buffet and people eat a lot. Double the demerit points for speeding on a holiday weekend and fewer ...

Are school league tables any good?

Aug 11, 2009

Choosing a child’s school based on league tables is inadvisable because the tables ignore the uncertainty that arises from predicting a school’s future performance based on its past performance, according ...

Research findings give nod to Gonski

Aug 21, 2013

A Murdoch University researcher says Australia should strive to have every school be a good school, and is calling on Federal political party leaders to clarify their positions on how they intend to implement ...

The formula for world-class science and chemistry education

Jun 04, 2014

The Royal Society of Chemistry has today launched a report which identifies disparities in the provision of specialist science and Chemistry teaching across the UK. The report highlights inconsistent delivery of science education ...

Recommended for you

Cloning whistle-blower: little change in S. Korea

Oct 24, 2014

The whistle-blower who exposed breakthrough cloning research as a devastating fake says South Korea is still dominated by the values that allowed science fraudster Hwang Woo-suk to become an almost untouchable ...

Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

Oct 21, 2014

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), evaluated consumers' choice in fresh tomato selection and revealed which characteristics make the red fruit most appealing.

How the lotus got its own administration

Oct 21, 2014

Actually the lotus is a very ordinary plant. Nevertheless, during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) a complex bureaucratic structure was built up around this plant. The lotus was part of the Imperial Household, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

plaasjaapie
4 / 5 (1) May 29, 2008
Oh yeah, just like in the States. Teachers and headmasters would rather strangle than be held accountable in any way for their performance.