Exclusive: Teachers’ union slams East Lothian school league table


Campaigners worried over apperance of first league tables before introduction of standardised testing

SCOTLAND’S most prominent teachers union have spoken out after the appearance of a local school league table in East Lothian.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly insisted that a new regime of standardised testing will not result in league tables comparing schools across the country.

CommonSpace was sent the tables, which compared pupil performance across schools in the East Lothian area and were distributed to local parents. The primary years highlighted are years P1, P4 and P7; the same years as those set for standardised testing when it is rolled-out in 2017. The ‘Experimental statistics’, which a covering letter from East Lothian council, which is politically controlled by a joint Labour, Conservative and independent councillors, stressed represented a preparatory stage before the implementation of standardised testing, record the percentage of pupils reaching expected Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) standards across reading, writing, listening and talking and numeracy.

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the EIS union told CommonSpace: “What this local authority seems to be doing goes far beyond the Scottish Government's proposals around the National Improvement Framework. The EIS is mystified as to why any council would choose to publish data in this potentially damaging manner.”

Page one of four of the East Lothian school league table, the names of individual schools have been redacted by the source

“The EIS is absolutely opposed to the creation of league tables to compare schools, many of which are operating in very different circumstances.

“There is no national policy, either current or proposed, which compels local authorities to publish school data in any type of league table format. Providing information to parents on how their child is progressing at school is extremely important, but creating comparisons between individual schools is both unhelpful and unnecessary.”

Standardised testing will be introduced in 2017 as part of the Scottish Government’s National Improvement Framework (NIF), designed to reduce the gap in educational attainment between Scotland’s wealthiest and poorest children.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted these moves will not result in league tables, which unions worry can introduce the logic of competition into the school system.

Commenting on the tables, education campaigner James McEnaney said: “There is absolutely no question that this heralds the return of school league tables, which is precisely what I and many others have been warning would happen as a result of the SNP's ill-advised education policies.

League tables were abolished in Scotland more than a decade ago precisely because of their negative impact upon schools. Nicola Sturgeon may claim to have no interest in “crude league tables” but that is precisely what her government is about to create.”

The East Lothian league tables also do not factor in any differentials between the student bodies, or any data about the relative levels of deprivation of pupils at different schools, meaning that the schools are being compared without reference to what might be causing different levels of performance.

An East Lothian council spokesperson told CommonSpace that the data distributed to parents “was to explain that there is no agreed national framework for gathering information and that local data cannot be used in comparison with other authorities”.

Campaigners and unions now worry that the appearance of localised league tables, even before the national roll-out of standardised testing, sets a dangerous precedent.

Commenting on the tables, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government will not be publishing league tables. We believe it is important to have school level data that provides a clearer, more complete picture and understanding of where performance is strong and where improvement activity must be focused.

“It is for local authorities to choose whether they distribute teacher professional judgement data in this fashion to parents and other stakeholders.”

CommonSpace has previously revealed that the Scottish Government recieved written advice from just two educational experts on standardised testing, and that the lead expert in their consultation has criticisms of the policy finally adopted.

Picture courtesy of Alberto G.

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