Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scottish school league tables 2011

They haven't changed that much - so I don't have much to add to what I said last year.

Couple of things about the publication of data though. I agree with the criticisms people make of league tables and their tendency to produce perverse incentives to narrow the curriculum - but not publishing them hasn't helped.

For one thing, some people seem to have got the impression that school exam results aren't published at all. They are - just not in a, well, league table format. You can find quite detailed information here if you can be bothered searching through schools individually - but most people can't so rely on the press to do it for them. Problem here is that this is even cruder than the tables the government used to publish.

For example, the Scotsman data linked above has two key indicators, one of which is the proportion of the roll who get 5 or more Standard Grades at General level. My old PT used say rather unkindly that if you were a sentient being, you should be able to get a pass at General 4. It's a bit harsh. Pupils may have difficulty at this level for a number of reasons. However, given that it is normal for students to take eight Standard Grades and that it indeed the case that getting five of them at General level is no great academic feat, all this statistic does is identify those who are doing really quite badly. Whereas the other statistic - those passing Highers - has to do with those staying on and then doing really rather well.*

In other words, while league tables are crude measures, I'm not sure it's an entirely good idea for the Scottish Government to leave it to the media to make them even more so.

*Just occurred to me people might not know what I'm on about here. The legal school-leaving age in Scotland is still 16.

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