The two trade unions representing head teachers (NAHT and ASCL), independent school and academy group United Learning and specialists in raising education standards, PiXL, have today announced a new initiative for improving the information available to parents about how schools perform.
A new free website www.schoolperformancetables.org.uk has been established where schools can publish comparable data to cover all aspects of their performance. The first stage for this will be allowing schools to publish the full data for this summer’s GCSE results, not just what the DfE will choose to publish next January.
The initiative will broaden and deepen the scope of comparable information available to parents about how schools perform. It is intended that, over the next three years, the tables will become the established, independent means of publishing data that bypasses politicians and government. Over time, they will:
include information which goes beyond exam results – including extra-curricular provision, curriculum information and broader success measures – reflecting professional views about what makes a good school;
give parents a chance to say what information they want to see about schools, going beyond government-collected data; and
allow parents and other users to define their own combinations of success measures so that they can see how well a school would meet their own child’s interests, needs and aspirations.
Launching the initiative Jon Coles, Chief Executive of United Learning, said:
“When government first introduced school performance tables it was part of the Citizen’s Charter, which aimed to give people information about the performance of public services. Making information about schools public was an important step to take. Over time, though, the tables have become less a way of giving parents the information they want and more an arms-length policy lever by which successive governments have sought to influence the decisions Heads take about how to run their schools.
“This is too crude an approach to defining a great school or encouraging improvement and at different times, it has been detrimental in different ways. For example, promoting too much focus on the C/D borderline, especially in English and maths, or promoting choices of qualification which do not serve individual children well.
“What parents want to know and what Heads want to offer is much greater than the predominant focus on any single measure would suggest. Exam data is of course a key element of this, but it’s not the only one that parents are interested in and it’s not the only one that defines how well a school is doing.
“Rather than criticise government for this, we believe it is time for the education profession to take more responsibility and display greater accountability to parents about how schools are performing. Critically, providing more information rather than less and offering parents the opportunity to select the information they want will mean that no one measure will have disproportionate importance.
“We are launching this now so that, over the next three years, the profession can work with parents to define the criteria by which they want to compare schools. We are inviting parents to tell us what additional information they think it is important to know. This is likely to include measures on extra-curricular activity, subject choice, class sizes and value-added but we are very open to hearing exactly what parents really care about and find ways of generating comparable data for this.
“In terms of GCSE data, we are looking to publish comparative figures when parents need them during the Year 7 and Sixth Form application process in the autumn term rather than having to wait until January for the DfE figures as well as actually publishing the results that pupils receive rather than what the DfE is interested in collecting”.
Through ASCL and the NAHT, schools across the country are being invited to submit their GCSE exam data to be published in unadulterated form on the website so that parents are able to judge for themselves what pupils at a school are receiving as their grades.
The tables will allow parents to compare the performance of up to five local schools at one time to help them decide which school is right for their child. In due course the tables will be expanded to include a much broader and deeper variety of information that parents need to understand the quality of education that schools provide.
The initiative dovetails into separate initiatives already being run by the NAHT and ASCL.
Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“The current performance tables tell part of a story about schools’ and students’ achievements, but they do not tell the whole story. We want to make sure that the performance tables reflect the hard work and effort that students and teachers have put in. That is why we are pleased to be involved in helping to create these alternate performance tables that give a fuller picture of achievement.”
Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said:
"Schools must be accountable, but the government's performance tables have become a sledgehammer to crack the system - too often serving political aims rather than pupils' needs and driving the wrong decisions. This initiative will, over time, give parents stable, accurate and neutral information about schools. It is good to see the school leaders seizing the initiative and building a connection to parents that bypasses all the politics."
Sir John Rowling, Chair of PiXL, said:
"Across our network, schools feel pushed and pulled by the complex, no-notice changes to school league tables. This new way of presenting information will provide a real opportunity for school leaders to help parents understand the complexities of school outcomes by publishing the results that students actually achieve without the artificial filters that are based on the politics of the day or hour.”
Schools will be able to upload their GCSE data from Thursday 21st August and the tables will be published in the autumn. Data can be uploaded via SIMS.
There will be no cost either for schools or for parents to access the data all of which will be available publicly.
3. The PiXL Club is a collaboration of school leaders, headed by Sir John Rowling and William Smith. The PiXL Club is about sharing new ideas with school leaders; it is a partnership of focused, determined and dedicated professional practitioners. It is a not for profit organisation that focuses on supporting and developing GCSE and A Level results and Key Stage 2 of thousands of students in many schools across London, the South East, West and the North. www.PiXL.org.uk
4. United Learning is a national group of schools and academies which aims to provide excellent education to children and young people across the country. Uniquely, it includes significant numbers of schools in both the private and maintained sectors, working together for mutual benefit and linked by their aim of bringing out the best in everyone. www.unitedlearning.org.uk