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EDITIONS
Friday, 14 February, 2003, 12:40 GMT
School league tables scrapped
Ballymena Academy A-level students
Northern Ireland students do well in exams
The controversial school performance tables are being scrapped in Northern Ireland.

In future schools will be able to set their performance in the context of information on the school as a whole

Education minister, Martin McGuinness
Instead, individual schools will publish their own annual results in prospectuses for parents to read.

Teachers' unions are pleased, but there has been criticism that the move ignores the views of the Northern Ireland Assembly education committee.

The so-called "school league tables" have caused controversy since the government started to publish them in 1993, and three quarters of the responses to a recent consultation paper favoured abolishing them.

The education minister, Martin McGuinness, has cancelled the publication of the latest school-by-school figures, using the 2000 exam results, which were due out next month.

Union pleased

"Many respondents felt the tables were divisive and failed to offer schools the opportunity to give parents a rounded picture of the school," Mr McGuinness said.

Martin McGuinness:
Martin McGuinness: Responding to consultation
"I am convinced that this decision is the right one for our schools and our parents," he said.

"In future schools will be able to set their performance in the context of information on the school as a whole."

Regional officer for the NASUWT teachers' union, Tom McKee, applauded the decision.

He said the results were "a spurious form of competition that leads to harmful league tables being published in the newspapers".

"It's a totally unjustified distraction.

"Schools should improve but you measure how the school has done against what it has done in the past rather than other schools in Northern Ireland."

Decision attacked

But the deputy chairman of the education committee, Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party, said Mr McGuinness had disregarded parents and pupils.

Martin McGuinness is intent on destroying the education system in Northern Ireland

Education committee deputy chairman, Sammy Wilson
He said the minister was "seeking to endear himself to the trade unions while ignoring the need for proper information to parents on which to base school choices for their children".

Mr Wilson said performance tables helped identify schools which were not delivering a proper service so they could be given extra help and resources.

"Martin McGuinness is intent on destroying the education system in Northern Ireland and in doing so creating a disadvantage for a generation of young people," he said.

"The dismantling of any central measurement of performance is yet another step down that road.

"The minister has ignored the unanimous view of the education committee in his decision today."

Elsewhere

The move brings Northern Ireland more into line with the Irish Republic, which bans the publication of statistics of school performance.

It is being stressed that there is no intention of dropping the performance tables in England, though ministers are looking at ways of better reflecting the "value" schools add to their pupils' performance.

Whitehall sources say ministers regard the tables as an important source of information for parents.

The Welsh Education Secretary, Jane Davidson, has said her department's tables for 2001 will take into account schools' social backgrounds and how much they have improved year on year.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said it had no plans not to issue attainment tables.

The tables of the 2000 exam results are not now expected until spring this year, following the chaos over the issuing of the results.

Comparisons

Out of a number of alternatives, the option preferred by most in Northern Ireland's consultation was to end the publication of every school's results in one annual booklet and instead to allow schools themselves to compile and publish their results.

The original aim of the tables was to allow parents and principals to compare the performance of one school with another.

But teachers have complained for years that it is not fair to compare bare exam results without taking into account other factors such as the sort of pupils who go to the school.

Schools have been known to make mistakes in the figures they have published, however.

Mr McGuinness said his department would review the information they were required to include in their prospectuses so that "meaningful comparisons" could be made.

The department has been unhappy with the media practice of rearranging the data into a ranking order of best to worst performing schools, and this new system will make it more difficult to do that.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray
"Kate Bradley spent ten years working for the West Midlands Police"

In DepthIN DEPTH
School and college performance dataLeague tables
Key results with a page for every school

In-depth coverage of this year's UK exam results
Students' stories

See also:

22 Aug 00 | N Ireland
28 Sep 00 | N Ireland
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