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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 December, 2003, 00:26 GMT
New tables reveal school 'value'
Head teacher Sandra Marsden
Head teacher Sandra Marsden - "adding value"
The latest league tables for primary schools in England have been published and for the first time they include a measure intended to show how far teachers are helping children to improve.

An inner-city school where most pupils are poor enough to be entitled to free lunches heads the new table.

"Value added" measures show how much schools in England have raised pupils' achievements since they first sat national tests four years earlier.

But even the top head teachers say compulsory testing is an irrelevance.

The National Union of Teachers, which is planning a boycott of next year's tests, said league tables were fundamentally flawed.

The new tables show that some schools had good results in the 2003 tests in English, science and maths but had added relatively little to pupils' achievements.

Others scored badly - but are revealed to be doing very well by their pupils. And some score highly - or poorly - on both reckonings.

Disadvantaged area

Government statisticians say caution is needed in interpreting the new tables, with little real difference between scores separated by only tenths of a point.

But Delaval Community Primary School in Newcastle-upon-Tyne had the highest value added score in the country - 105.5 - to the delight of the head teacher, Sandra Marsden.

parent
It's boosted the whole school's morale
Delaval school parent
"It's the most wonderful acknowledgement of everything that we do," she said.

"And it defeats the stereotype that people in inner-city Newcastle have low aspirations and low attainment."

Up to 80% of her pupils were entitled to free school meals but the staff had "an absolute belief" in their potential.

Teachers' assessments

On the more traditional tables, which simply measure the test results, 142 schools achieved the maximum possible score of 300 - whereas 178 did so last year.

The national average score was 234, the same as last year.

Delaval achieved 242 - but Mrs Marsden said these "raw" test outcomes were now unnecessary because teachers' assessments of their pupils' capabilities provided essentially the same results.

Teacher assessment is pretty spot-on now and I think it is more realistic than tests
Top head Sandra Jones
Top of the list - by virtue of having had more pupils all reaching the expected level - was Werrington Primary in Cambridgeshire.

The head teacher, Sandra Jones, also sets little store by the tests.

"I think personally that I could do without them," she said.

"Teacher assessment is pretty spot-on now and I think it is more realistic than tests done on one day."

'Nice to be top'

And there was further criticism of league tables from this year's "most improved" school - the one that has raised its results year-on-year the most since 2000.

Maths club at much improved Wellington primary
This year's "most improved" primary is Wellington, Bow

Wellington Primary School in Bow, east London, has six in every 10 pupils from families poor enough to entitle them to free lunches. English is a second language for almost eight in 10.

The head teacher, Margaret Libreri, said the new value added measures showed the "difference" schools made.

But she added: "I don't think there's a great deal of benefit in league tables.

"Wellington has been at the bottom of the tables so it's quite nice to be at the top for a change."

'Flawed'

Doug McAvoy of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said the government's continuing attachment to performance tables was "incomprehensible".

"Value added tables shuffle the winners and losers without addressing the fundamental flaws behind the tables in the first place," he said.

"A school can receive a glowing inspection report and yet be at the bottom of the tables and suffer as a result."

His union is balloting its members on a boycott of next year's tests, which could wreck the 2004 league tables.

Local authorities

The leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart - a majority of whose members are in primary schools - said the tables still suffered from major defects.

"They distort the curriculum to a damaging extent," he said.

The introduction of value added measures had begun to do justice to schools serving deprived communities.

But statistics showing that a number of local authorities' results had fallen this year only served to prove that the government's tough target-setting agenda had "failed to motivate".

Of the main education authorities, schools in Richmond upon Thames had the best performance, with an average score of 263.4.

Those in Hackney in London fared worst, averaging 197.3.

The School Standards Minister, David Miliband, said: "We have always said that we will listen to the views of heads, teachers and parents about how the performance tables can provide a more comprehensive and rounded picture of school performance.

"Including value added information does just that."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's James Westhead
"In theory - the bigger the improvement - the better the school"



English secondary schools 2003

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English primary school tables 2003

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Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not publish tables.


SEE ALSO:
More teachers attack school tests
03 Dec 03  |  Education
Heads attempt to opt out of tests
28 Nov 03  |  Education
Clarke warns teachers on tests
20 Nov 03  |  Education
Teachers to vote on tests boycott
07 Nov 03  |  Education



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