School league tables ruled out in Scotland

OFFICIAL league tables which measure one school’s achievements against another will not be introduced as part of measures to drive up attainment, according to the education secretary.

Mike Russell had been considering introducing a banding system, similar to one in operation in Wales, as a way of improving parental engagement and improving failing schools.

But in a speech at Glasgow University, the minister said the decision made ten years ago by the then Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition not to publish tables was the right decision.

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While newspapers including The Scotsman produce league tables based on official government statistics, Holyrood has always shied away from copying the English model, where schools are given an average point score based on exam results, allowing parents to compare different schools.

Mr Russell had considered adopting the Welsh model, where schools are rated 1-5 based on results, but eventually rejected it. The Welsh Government claims the system is not about “naming and shaming”, but is more sophisticated as it takes into account factors such as the number of children receiving free school meals.

Mr Russell said: “A decade ago and more there was a passionate debate in Scotland about the publication of league tables of schools. The right decision was made then by the Labour/Liberal administration – the decision not to publish them in the form that is used south of the Border.

“At its worst, the league table mentality insists that measurement can only be meaningful if it is used in judgemental comparisons, although it does not understand that such comparisons are nearly impossible given diversity of cohorts, communities and cultures.”

The education secretary said he had asked national agency Education Scotland to collate exam results, inspection reports, local school plans and a range of other material for inclusion in a new “easily understood, one click” website.

League tables have always been opposed by teaching unions, who claim they fail to take into account external factors such as the level of deprivation in which a school operates.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said: “It’s important parents know how a school is doing, but it’s much more about the narrative, rather than just the raw data.

“A few years ago Castlemilk High achieved one of the best inspection reports ever and its headteacher was lauded for his efforts, yet at the time it had the worst qualification results in the Glasgow area. Had it been in a league table, it would have been bottom.”

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “There’s a place for league tables, but we need to be absolutely clear what we’re measuring. You have to measure like with like.”