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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 10:43 GMT
Top heads say scrap school tables
pupils taking test
The tests in May were taken by 576,824 pupils
There have been renewed calls for an end to school league tables in England - even from those who have done well.

Education unions have called for their abolition. The government says they are valuable for parents and will stay.

But the head of the school that topped the primary tables this year said they were "unfair and unjust" and she would not use them to choose a school.

The tables show results in the national curriculum tests were better this year in 53% of schools but worse in 45%.

In 229 schools out of more than 13,500, all the final-year pupils reached the standard the government expects.

'Rising standards'

They achieved the maximum score of 300 in the tests in English, maths and science.

The lowest score in the other schools was 57.

Averages in different areas ranged from 267 to 209.

For the third year Richmond upon Thames had the best results, Hackney in east London the worst.

Across England, the proportions of youngsters achieving the standard, national curriculum Level 4, are confirmed as 79% in English, 75% in maths and 86% in science - the same as the provisional figures published in August.

KEY RESULTS FACTS
229 schools achieved maximum aggregate score of 300
lowest aggregate score was 57
highest average point score per pupil was 33
lowest was 17.3
53% of schools did better than last year
45% had worse results
England's Schools Minister, Andrew Adonis, said: "The results today show that we are continuing to raise standards in our primary schools."

Conservative spokesman Nick Gibb said: "These results confirm yet again that results in English, in primary schools are flat lining.

"We are also concerned that only 57% of primary school pupils are achieving Level 4 in reading, writing and maths. This leaves nearly half of 11-year-olds poorly prepared for secondary school."

'Football team'

The national figures include results from independent schools which opt to take the tests, though they do not feature individually in the tables.

Liberal Democrat Ed Davey said ministers should review the whole system of tests and league tables in primary schools.

The education departments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not publish such tables and Mick Brookes of the National Association of Head Teachers called for England to follow suit.

"They are fine if you are running a football team but not if you are doing something as serious as running a school," he said.

Steve Sinnott of the National Union of Teachers said: "They offer no explanation or understanding of why one school does better than another.

"To continue with this policy is foolhardy. I would like to see the back of league tables."

Trend

Of almost 13,000 schools in England for which results are available for last year as well as this, almost 53% did better, 45% worse and 2% stayed the same.

That 2% included four schools which have achieved a score of 300 four years in a row.

The number getting 300 this year (229) was up on the 190 last year and 142 in 2003.

Combe head teacher Barbara Jones
We all work very hard - the children, the staff and the support staff - it doesn't come easily
Top head Barbara Jones

At the head of the list of schools with the best results was Combe Church of England Primary near Witney, Oxfordshire.

Not only did all 15 of them reach the expected level for their age, they all reached the next level, expected of 14-year-olds.

Combe's head teacher, Barbara Jones, attributed its success to "common sense and hard work".

She said government lesson strategies were "too prescriptive" and tended to erode teachers' confidence.

Mrs Jones said her pupils had worked hard and achieved a great deal.

"But I think we knew that without them having to publish it in a league table," she said.

"It's unfair and it's unjust."

The head of the school whose results have improved most, consistently, over the past four years said she was "really proud" of the achievement at Eastborough Junior Infant and Nursery School in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

But Nicola Roth added: "Lots of other schools have worked really, really hard and will not get the acknowledgement they deserve.

"It would be better if league tables did not exist."

The high stakes of testing and league tables mean that it is difficult for teachers to take a rounded approach to learning
Carol Adams
General Teaching Council
The head of the General Teaching Council, Carol Adams, said: "We know from our discussions with parents and from research that many parents feel that league tables are irrelevant in helping them judge how well the school is meeting the needs of their child.

"Yet the high stakes of testing and league tables mean that it is difficult for teachers to take a rounded approach to learning."

She called for "a radical overhaul" of the current assessment regime.

The Teacher Support Network charity said 70% of primary school teachers who responded to a survey it conducted said league tables had a negative effect on their wellbeing.

Nine per cent said they had a positive impact, however, by giving them goals to work towards.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said they would stay.

"Our strategies are about ensuring every school is addressing the basics properly, which many were not before 1998," he said.




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