Tables are ‘wrong and misleading’ say heads

Headteacher Graeme Dow with Imogen Hargreaves (right) and Mary Kemp.
Headteacher Graeme Dow with Imogen Hargreaves (right) and Mary Kemp.
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LEAGUE tables have been slammed as “wrong and misleading” as their unpopularity grows across the Fylde coast.

The tables are based on the results of the Key Stage 2 tests - known as Sats - in maths and English, but 2010 was no ordinary exam season.

Opposition to Sats had been growing year on year with teaching unions saying the focus on “teaching the test” was narrowing the curriculum and squeezing the enjoyment out of leaning.

Frustration with the Government’s decision to keep the tests – despite the fact they were axed in Scotland and Wales – led to plans for a national boycott.

And the Fylde coast was no exception. In Blackpool 16 of the 32 primary schools boycotted the tests. In Fylde it was 12 out of 30 and in Wyre, 22 out of 44.

Headteachers’ refusal to set the exams means the data has been left with gaping holes.

To put the results into some kind of context, teacher assessments on progress have been included for the first time this year.

Schools are expected to have at least 60 per cent of their pupils meet a minimum standard - Level 4 - in both maths and English.

Only a handful of schools on the Fylde coast failed to meet the target.

The teacher assessments – which are rigorously monitored by local authorities – show the percentage of children in every school who are hitting the mark.

But the controversial exams are still seriously out of favour according to Andy Mellor, Blackpool’s National Association of Headteachers representative. He said: “It’s no secret Sats and league tables are a waste of paper.

“In most cases they tell us what we already know – but a teacher’s knowledge is far more detailed as they know the progress made over a year.

“Schools can make terrific progress with a child, but if they don’t make that magic level four – they are classed as failing – this is why league tables are wrong and misleading.

“They are discredited to the point where only those who don’t understand education and child development still support them.

“The Government say schools have narrowed the curriculum too much – but this is what happens in a system which rewards attainment at all costs.

“If they took away the high stakes system we have now, schools could return to a balanced curriculum which gives children a broader, more balanced education.”

The Gazette’s league tables focus primarily on the teacher assessment data as it has figures for every school.

Sue Harrison, assistant director of children’s services at Blackpool Council reassured parents the data is reliable.

She said: “As half of local primary schools chose to boycott the tests direct comparison of 2010 results with earlier years is meaningless.

“Analysis of test results and teacher assessments in local schools shows a high correlation between the two sets of data, so it is valid to compare the results of assessment to give a picture of performance.

“It is important to recognise rigorous moderation procedures are in place to quality assure the accuracy of Blackpools’ teacher assessments.”

Tables

Graeme Dow, headteacher of Anchorsholme Primary drew attention to the gaps in league tables.

He said: “I welcome the fact the teacher assessments have been included as these are the people who know their children’s capabilities best.

“But even these can’t cover the wealth of other opportunities Blackpool children get in music, dance, drama, art and sport which help them grow into well adjusted, well rounded young people.”

Headteachers nationally have pledged not to repeat their Sats boycott next year after the Government announced an independent review of England’s primary tests.

The National Association of Head Teachers said being part of the review was their best chance to change the system.