‘Three reasons why the secondary school league tables don’t matter as much as you’d think’

School leaders will have had sleepless nights worrying about the league tables out today – but instead of allowing them to close down conversations about schools, we should use them to open up broader discussion, writes ASCL leader Geoff Barton in Tes.

It’s that day again. The school year used to follow a familiar rhythm of training days, parents’ evenings, mock exams, revision classes, occasional dressing-up days, open evenings, Year 11 farewells and end-of-year celebrations.

School years still have those elements, of course, except now we also have rather less natural rhythms imposed by the examination and accountability system – mock exams, walk-and-talk mocks, more mocks of any variety, the stomach-tightening wait before results day, results day, the local media coverage the day after results day, and then today. It is performance tables’ day. Don’t expect the popping of corks or strewing of celebratory bunting.

In their hearts, every school leader knows that today’s performance tables only tell a limited story about their school. And yet, many leaders will have had sleepless nights over the past week – whether they are heads, deputies, assistant heads, heads of department or heads of year. They know, of course, that performance tables don’t matter. But they also know that performance tables do matter.

So, to help retain our sense of collective perspective, here are three reasons why today’s performance tables matter far less than their media prominence might have us believe.

1. Very few parents and carers send their children to a school on the basis of its performance table rank order

If we think they do, we probably misrepresent them. Parents want their children to be secure, happy, well taught, in an environment of civilised behaviour and human interactions. They want a school that tells a strong story of what its values are – a commitment to real learning, results being important but not a defining feature, and a rich experience of the arts, sport, other extracurricular activities, and leadership that shows it is not too compliant to a national fixation with mechanistic measures. We can afford to be bolder, therefore, in keeping performance tables in perspective.

Read more reasons ‘Three reasons why the secondary school league tables don’t matter as much as you’d think’

Do you agree with Geoff? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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