Tuesday, 2 November 2010

How abolishing league tables hit Welsh standards

A fascinating new report from Bristol University shows that by scrapping performance tables, the Welsh Assembly made a serious mistake in 2001. I had already started to notice the impact when I debated the issue in the TES at the time. Now, this damning report has demonstrated that the absence of serious pressure on secondary schools has reduced the average GCSE candidate's attainment by the equivalent of almost two GCSE grades compared with their English counterparts. The report said:
We find that the reform significantly and systematically reduces school effectiveness. We find systematic, significant and robust evidence that abolishing school league tables markedly reduced school effectiveness in Wales. The impact is sizeable: a fall of 1.92 GCSE grades per student per year.

Moreover, the impact was worst on the lowest performing schools with the poorest and lowest ability ones most impacted. It was probably compounded by the absence of academies and the National Challenge. This is the strongest evidence yet of the value of performance tables and published data. As Professor David Reynolds says, the Welsh Assembly should consider their reintroduction.

And do so without delay.


Jim Sweetman said...

Too pat and too easy to see it this way. What the research shows is that school entry policies changed so that they were not simply chasing the percentages. It is impossible to tell if the quality of those children's education improved but I'm prepared to think it might have done without league tables and inappropriate courses.

Conor Ryan said...

By which you mean that they stopped being ambitious for their pupils? The report has controlled for lots of variables, including 'gaming' - and has the virtue of being data-based rather than simply the result of received opinion, which was the basis on which the tables were dropped. There is simply no justification for non-publication of school performance data - and this report confirms it.