School league tables for UK schools are compiled every year by government.
How a school performs impacts on how popular it is, and in turn on how well it does in subsequent years. Secondary or high schools are measured by their GCSE results, although sometimes schools use different figures on their publicity, so it pays to check which ones they are talking about.
Two statistics are commonly used: 5 or more GCSEs at levels A – G, and 5 or more GCSEs at levels A – C. Levels A – C are the kind of grades that correspond to the old ‘O’ levels, and grades D – G to the old CSEs.
A significant number fail to achieve this standard every year, but there is also a figure for the amount of improvement made by pupils during their time at state schools, a ‘value added’ score. This can be a more useful figure than actual GCSEs, especially in a deprived area, where achievement levels might be low generally. Scores over 1,000 indicate an above average level of attainment.
For primary school education, league tables are based on SATS exams, taken by year 6 pupils, although not in Scotland. They are designed to make sure that schools reach the required standard, and also to help secondary schools place their pupils in ability groups in year 7.
Almost 1000 schools failed to achieve the levels required by government. In 2010 many schools boycotted SATS tests because they feared that teaching was tailored to the test, not to broader educational outcomes. The tests also put extra stress on parents and children.
Many think that 11-year-olds are too young to be tested, and many children do not perform well under pressure, and the results do not account for this. A teacher’s considered assessment of a child’s performance could be used instead, giving a more balanced overall picture. The Scottish system of flexible and non-compulsory tests, designed to confirm a teacher’s own assessment, is seen by many as a more workable system.