‘Finally, proof that league tables are damaging’

In my blog last week, “It’s obvious: learning outside the classroom works“, I identified some research that proved what we already knew, but was welcome nonetheless.  A few days later, blow me if some more examples didn’t come along. Dr Bernard Trafford, headteacher writes in Tes.

The front page of Wednesday’s Times proclaimed: “Switch off mobiles at 10pm to stay happy.” A “huge” study by the University of Glasgow, reported in The Lancet Psychiatry, “links late phone use with poor sleep”.

Yes, it’s good to see what we already knew proved by large-scale scientific research. Here’s another example. Academics at LSE, who published their work in the Economics of Education Review and were the subject of a Tes report by Charlotte Santry on Tuesday, have discovered that school choice leads to unhappy pupils.

Choice itself doesn’t lead to unhappiness, but the competition created between academies, faith schools and the independent sector does. It’s not about school types, but competition.

The  LSE study declares that schools competing for pupils:

“are more likely to adopt teaching methods which, although academically effective, are not necessarily inspiring or enjoyable for children…. These methods include ‘boring’ teaching styles including drill and repetition, more homework, hierarchical pupil-teacher relations and increased pressure from parents.”

League tables started it. Such pressure was unknown before them, in an era that I can recall. When league tables first appeared in the early 1990s, schools suddenly realised that they were perhaps exposed – or that their complacency was, at any rate – and that they needed to put their houses in order.

I’ve always clung to the belief that challenging, inspiring, open-ended teaching is what gives rise to the highest-quality learning: but I’ve felt the pressure. And I’ve seen too many schools succumb, schools in both sectors and of every type.

The LSE study may thus have uncovered a problem, but many will refuse to recognise it as one. Indeed, some schools, some academy chains and all too many parents will see drills, repetition and more homework as a badge of honour: such “traditional” methods are often cited as constituting “real” education.

Read the full article ‘Finally, proof that league tables are damaging’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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