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What is the point of league tables?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by moscowbore, Oct 29, 2019.

  1. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    brachael and Sally006 like this.
  2. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Occasional commenter

    It shows nothing of the sort, and the suggestion you make without any evidence is so generalised as to be useless. The article linked to is politically motivated propaganda under the guise of science. You pay them enough, and you can get any university "research" group to come up with any "statistical" finding that you ask for.

    League tables simply show how well organisations are performing compared with others. Have a look at the Premiership football table and you will see that the best clubs are at, or towards, the top and the less good clubs are at, or towards the bottom. That's reality, and some measure of performance is necessary in many areas of society to see how progress is being made.

    Ofsted has its faults, but some form of overwatch is necessary, because in the real world there are some carp schools that need to be sorted out. Until the perfect inspection system is devised, Ofsted will have to do. Better Ofsted than nothing. Unless of course you trust all Heads and SLTs to do such a wonderful job that they don't need any supervision at all...?

    Academies have become political footballs, and those on the left seem obliged to be against them. But just as with schools, there are excellent academies and appalling academies. It is the old story: it's not the places butt he people who run them that matter. A good and empathetic head with a competent team and an efficient administration system will do well in any educational establishment, whether it's called and academy, a college, a school or a gingerbread house. I think it's the academy chains that are the problem - big "trusts" with lots of schools become inefficient and unwieldy, and I think that these chains should be limited to no more than half a dozen schools.

    Funding will always be a source of argument, as people want extra funding for every aspect of life. But more funding is useless unless it is put to good use. I have only been teaching 12 years or so, but even in that time have seen massive waste in schools. Countless pieces of equipment and books bought, used briefly and then stuck in a cupboard. Reams of unnecessary copies. Incompetent senior staff wandering about trying to justify their positions. A "Chief Executive", paid >£100K, unable to sort out a simple problem and too ignorant properly to address a serious staff concern. But in my experience of good schools, when run efficiently they have enough money to do their job and create good outcomes for their students.

    As for political interference, I don't trust the concept as stated. One person's "interference" might well be another person's "strategy". As it is our taxes that pay for schools, it is right that the government should control to some extent what schools do, through the DforE. Despite what we read in papers of all hues, as far as I can find out in modern times there has never been any real attempt by any government, not even Blair's, to make schools push a particular political ideology. Sure, there have been tweaks and support for a few ideological concepts, but nothing along the lines seen in many places elsewhere in the world.

    But all that apart, choosing "Progress 8" to have a go at is the wrong target anyway. Progress 8, whilst of course (in my opinion) flawed, is at least an attempt to right some of the wrongs of the past. It takes into account prior attainment, so it should even things out in areas of low-ability and/or low- achieving students. Unfortunately, it will depend to an extent on exam entry policy, and some schools probably won't suss this till too late. An interesting statistic I came across the other week relates to one school that has done really well in terms of progress 8, but which is in one of the most deprived areas of the country. By the old measures, it appears, this school would have been seen as poor. So in at least one case, the idea has worked as planned.

    The naive idea that if schools - and teachers - were just left to get on with things with no measure of progress and no requirement for accountability everything would be wonderful is complete nonsense. Anyone who believes that is either insane or in fantasy land.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  3. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    League tables are nonsense. They are not founded on good methodology. They are a political invention designed to provide a ‘currency' for an 'economy of worth' in schools to make them behave like businesses looking for 'profit' in the form of league tables. It is designed to make schools compete. It’s an ideological market model.
    tenpast7, Jamvic, Dodros and 5 others like this.
  4. briancant

    briancant Occasional commenter

    What is the point of league tables?

    To supply parents with key information about the schools their children are attending or thinking of attending.

    The percentage of students gaining a 5 or above in Maths and English is a particularly good measure. Progress 8 is of course deeply flawed and as a measure largely ignored.
  5. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    I'm currently in the process of looking for suitable secondary schools for a youngster.
    In the same way as if I were choosing a car, or a washing machine, or an employer, I want to assemble some evidence to guide my choice.
    I have Ofsted reports - some of which are very old - which give some measure of what a school does well, or needs to improve.
    I have gossip factories like the supermarket queue, or Mumsnet, or whatever.
    I have league tables.
    None of these are totally reliable, nor do they paint a full picture, but at least they help.
    The school websites are of course marketing products and it's often hard to tell whether the school has invested heavily in the website, or whether a glossy website really reflects the school.
    Visiting schools helps but again you wonder if the school is putting on a show.

    I think we need league tables - if they are taken in context, and with caveats.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  6. MadHatter1985

    MadHatter1985 New commenter

    The key to a successful education system is definitely not league tables/OFSTED/academies.
    Many other developed countries (e.g. Italy, France, Germany and Japan) do not have published league tables nor have they introduced semi-privatised charter schools into the state system. They either have an inspection system a bit like the old HMI (e.g. Italy) or none whatsoever (e.g. Japan). These countries all have education systems (whilst they have their faults) at least as good as the English one. It is also definitely the case that the working conditions and status of English teachers are lower than in many other countries.
    tenpast7, install and JohnJCazorla like this.
  7. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Occasional commenter

    OK, let's get rid of "league tables" then.
    What other method must I, as a parent, use to find out which schools in my area are doing well and offer a good education and which schools are run by incompetent nitwits who haven't a clue and are failing their students?
  8. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Occasional commenter

    I agree with you about status in some ways, though it seems to vary area by area.

    But there are league tables in France for sure.


    Scroll down a bit and it will be clear, even if you don't have good French.

    As for Germany, it's a completely different system. League tables are largely unnecessary. Kids are streamed at age 8/9 and then go on to the type of school assessed as most suitable for them - generally an academic one leading to |UNI, a technological onje leading to apprenticeships or a vocational one for more practical students. There are a few "comprehensives" in some states, but setting does essentially the same job there. The efficiency is evident and the system seems to work well. We should adopt it here! Here is the brochure for Leipzig alone - pages 4-7 show all the different possibilities available.


    I'm not sure how the Spanish system works. Not sure if they are either!
  9. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    As a parent you presumably value some things over others and differently to other parents.

    I, for example, value curriculum. The presence of the arts holds more sway for me that the presence of literacy and numeracy booster sessions.

    I also don’t want a zero tolerance school.

    A qualitative report which sets out the school policies, curriculum and strengths without comparing it to other schools is what I want. In all seriousness, unless I’m a London boy my choice is one maybe two schools at best.
    install and Sally006 like this.
  10. ajrowing

    ajrowing Established commenter

    You seem to be confused.
    League tables do not tell you which schools are doing well. They tell you either which schools have managed to distort their intake sufficiently to do well in league tables, or if they have failed to manage their intake they tell you which schools manage to game the league tables to appear near the top. It is likely that in both cases the schools are failing some of their students.
    Jamvic, install, drek and 1 other person like this.
  11. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    Allow me to retort.

    I see OFSTED , academies and league tables as linked. I have seen good friends, good teachers squashed by senior management using the , "OFSTED require it ..." mantra. OFSTED closes down good schools and forces them to join MATs. My own school and a few others I have personal contact with were all forced to join a MAT due to "safeguarding" issues which in three cases I know about amounted to missing paperwork. My school changed overnight into a place of business where success was measured by "flightpaths" and our new principal did not know the name of a single student after her first year.

    I would be interested my dear johnty to hear your opinion on the whole flightpath thing.

    My own experience of being taken over by a MAT was not positive. Half the staff left that year, me among them. The school, now 3 years later, still only has 8 full time teachers and a small army of part-time and supply staff. Most of the staff left teaching. The MAT takeover was the final straw.

    I am all for accountability. MATs have a peculiar view of accountability, especially when it comes to making disastrous financial decisions and paying management too much while giving teachers insulting 1% pay rises. The employment of family members as consultants and paying them thousands pounds turns my stomach mostly because no-one is ever held accountable.

    HMI inspections were a positive experience and I for one would like to see their return. The ludicrous OFSTED inspection reports show OFSTED in a poor light. The extra workload generated by an impending OFSTED inspection is reason enough to get rid of OFSTED. There is a whole industry created around preparing for OFSTED inspections with retired OFSTED inspectors making fortunes.

    I see good teachers flogged by a system loaded in favour of the management, allowing good staff to be targetted and terminated in 6 weeks. The unions allow all of this to go on. Shame on them.

    It is not right for the government to be in charge of education. Look at the "strategy" employed by Gove. It was a Thatcherite attack on the teaching unions. It was political in it's intentions.

    Schools cheat to achieve league table points. Whole year groups have their "controlled assessments" marked and lists of improvements are given to the students before the work is submitted. I am glad that coursework is now a minority of marks in qualification classes but the cheating goes on, capability being the inevitable result of a teacher not getting with the program. That is what league tables achieve.
    The continued manipulation of grade boundaries sees students achieve false grades. Hence the preponderance of students with gcse english who can barely write a sentence and students with gcse maths who cannot do mental arithmetic.

    Funding is a problem. There simply is not enough money in the system. Teaching assistants are becoming rare. Students with real, identified learning issues are lumped in with very mixed ability groups and the lone teacher is meant to cope. Schools are forced to not replace teachers, leaving the rest of the teachers to take up the slack. Timetables become clogged with cover, teachers are then forced to do planning and prep at home. Work/life balance becomes a long lost dream and teachers leave teaching. The unions do nothing. Shame on them.
    The tone of your response seems to suggest that you think there is enough money in the system. The simple fact is that there is not enough money. Ask the head teachers who marched in London. I have a particular love for phrases like, "More efficiencies must be found", " work smarter", " we must do more with less", " some difficult decisions lie ahead ...". All the while MAT CEOs on 100k+ pay their wives 50k for 3 weeks consultancy.

    It is possible to run education where teachers feel valued, pay is commensurate with the ability of individual teachers, MATS do not get away with stealing money meant for the education of children and there is enough money to fix leaky buildings . It is all possible but there is no political will to do so. Too many people are making too much money from the existing system.
  12. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

  13. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    Wrong. It does because league tables are a whitehall bureaucrat's idea of how to compare. League tables do the exact opposite of what they purport to do. They destroy good schools and elevate those that select.

    No it won't. We could abolish OFSTED tomorrow. We had inspections by HMI's previously and they were professional. We could go back to that tomorrow.

    League tables only encourage fiddling of statistics.

    OFSTED are responsible for huge swathes of poor practices in schools.

    OFSTED needs to die.

    Abolishing league tables would also be positive step.
  14. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    The language is so biased "penalise" "reward".

    Progress 8 does no such thing. It just shows progress against targets. The application of words like penalise and reward only serves to distort the discussion.
  15. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    A good point but the problem with all the measures is that they can be 'gamed'. and the more successful schools are the ones that game better. And then because they are over-subscribed they can select pupils that will enhance the round of game playing.

    League tables are fine in sports contexts because everyone knows what the rules are. Can you say the same about OFSTED, Progress 8, SEN provision, school visits....etc.

    To overstretch the sports analogy, every team wants to be in the top half (or even the top quarter) but what happens to schools in the bottom half? They can't just vanish to Division 2.
    Jamvic, Jonntyboy and install like this.
  16. drek

    drek Star commenter

    I thought the board that can afford to buy the most talented players is at the top of the league.
    But do the teams at the bottom who tend to have their best players constantly bought out by the 'top' teams have to spend more hours of work on their game? Longer training sessions? Penalised for the way the system works?
    They have less money from shareholders to spend. Will all the hours god sends increase the talent pool somehow?
    Should they stop playing football altogether because they can never get to the top. So maybe football should only be played by the top 10 teams. all the rest should be ofsported out.
    Or maybe the top team should be cloned..........repeatedly.....
    Because even the 'best' coach in the world will not be able to turn a mediocre footballer into a gifted one and if that player fails to turn up to training sessions or turns up but has no interest in practising or getting fit.......... should the coach start looking for a desk job? ...lol
    From best coach to worst coach....change of players....change of boss,..... makes all the difference eh?
    tenpast7, Jamvic and JohnJCazorla like this.
  17. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    Germany has historically always had the second highest suicide rate among secondary aged children in the whole world.

    If that's what you call efficient.....
  18. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    quite. They are statistically invalid
  19. Sally006

    Sally006 Senior commenter

    In my view the best way to make a judgement is to visit the school. Preferably during a working day. My son’s school Positively encourage parents to visit and not just on an open day. Talk to other parents who have kids there - are they happy? You’ll get a far more accurate picture than any League Table of flawed and meaningless data.
    tenpast7, Jamvic, Jonntyboy and 2 others like this.
  20. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Speaking as a parent and former member of SLT, I agree 100%.

    League Tables may tell us something, but bear in m ind the GCSEs show what was done over the previous 5 years at least, quite possibly by teachers ans even HTs/SLTs no longer at the school. A Levels the result of 7 years (except where the first 5, crucial, years were at another school whose contribution the Tables ignore).

    And the game playing re: course choice, entries, even (in one school I worked in for a time) insisting A level students were removed from the roll and had to take their A levels as external candidates. (This may well have been stopped now, but many schools will find a way to game the system....)
    Jamvic and JohnJCazorla like this.

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