League Tables and Testing


In England children are tested when they enter school, either in the Reception or at the beginning of year 1.  This is a low-key test, (Click here for more detail on Baseline Assessment) covering a variety of skills.  It has been found to be one of the most valuable predictors of later success, and has the greatest statistical significance on results in later tests - interestingly enough, more so than poverty. (follow the link for more detail -What is a successful School?)


Children are again formally tested when they reach the end of Key Stage 1, which in England is when they are 7. (Remembering, of course, that some will be 7, nearly 8, and others will have only just turned 7!) (Click here for link to Key Stage 1 tests)


The last set of test’s come at the end of their primary education, in Year 6, when they are 11.  Again, some children will be almost 12, if they have a September birthday, and others will have only just turned 11.  (Click here for link to Key Stage 2 tests)


Testing will then go on throughout their secondary schooling. At the end of Key Stage 3, when they are 14, again at 16, when they take their GCSE’s, and again at 17, and 18 if they should choose to stay on at school to complete ‘A’ Levels.  A hefty load!


A recent, much heralded pullout was included in the TES (Nov 02), which claimed to list the ‘top’ 500 schools in both the primary and secondary categories.  By ‘top’ and most ‘excellent’ schools, it based its findings on the results of all the above tests (except for Baseline Assessment!).


Personally, this horrified me.  Looking down the schools, it seems that it was an exercise in class demarcation, and by class, I mean social class, and NOT school class!! 


The following links will take you to a number of articles, which will hopefully highlight some of the serious problems in using league tables to highlight successful schools.  I hope you will find them enlightening, in seeing that the issue is much more complex than it appears, and that using league tables alone, will give a truly distorted impression of what makes for a ‘good’ school!


Many of the links require Adobe Acrobat, which can be downloaded free from the following link



League Tables and schooling


The use of value added information in judging school performance 


What do Test Scores in Texas tell us? (EPAA) This is a very good article, which describes some of the problems in drawing too many conclusions from test scores, and looks into the issues of how much they can really indicate standards are improving.


(Click here for article by Ian Plewis and Harvey Goldstein - Excellence in Schools: a failure of standards.)