School league tables are changing so that they include the exam results of schools’ excluded pupils.
This social policy is designed to discourage schools from excluding potentially low-performing students with the intention of improving their exam results on paper.
Along with data on formally excluded pupils schools will also have to included data on off-rolled pupils, or pupils who have been informally excluded, for example by the school coming to an agreement with the parent that they will voluntarily un-enroll their child rather than their being formally excluded.
This seems to be the government’s response to the fact that school exclusions have rise by 40% in the last three years, after a period of decline….
At first glance this does seem to be an effective way of dealing with the recently growing problem of off-rolling – where the schools effectively just left it to the parents to re-enroll their child elsewhere, which many of them didn’t (as I’ve written about here). With this policy in place the schools who do this are at least more likely to follow up on what’s happened to their excluded children.
It might also make some schools innovate to deal with their ‘problem children’ more in-house rather than letting someone else deal with the problem.
It’s also an interesting example of a social policy response that recognizes that certain headmasters are prepared to game the system by engaging in underhand tactics to improve their results – this strategy of excluding to improve results (at least this is what appears to be going on) is mainly practiced by academies.
However, maybe it’s just a sticking plaster? Maybe we should be thinking more about why so many kids are being excluded, which means thinking about why they don’t like school, and think about how we can maybe change the system from the ground up?!?
The New Right introduced league tables into the UK education system in 1988, and today they are part of the ‘education furniture’, but what are the pros and cons?
Arguments and evidence that league tables have benefitted education
Politicians say that accountability keeps the teaching profession on its toes and drives up standards.
According to Prof Simon Burgess there is some evidence to support this – In 2001 the Welsh assembly stopped the publication of secondary school “league tables” and this resulted in a significant deterioration in GCSE performance. The effect amounted to around two GCSE grades per pupil per year – that is, achieving a grade D rather than a B in one subject.
League tables also give parents information on how the schools they are contemplating sending their children to are performing, and they do offer a very simple way of comparing schools (Easy for everyone to understand!).
Arguments and Evidence against League Tables
League tables do not give a rounded picture of everything going on in each school: they focus exclusively on academic achievement and don’t show whether the school ethos is right for their particular child, or how likely their child is to be safe and happy in that particular school.
Schools at the top of the league tables can create a “property price bubble” where parents will pay vastly inflated property prices to live near a top school, which prices out the majority of parents from the catchment area of the best schools.
School league tables put pressure on schools and students to achieve, this can distort the basic values and principles of education: there is a lot teaching to the test for example.
Schools lower down the league tables suffer a stigma of being branded ‘in need of improvement’ which may have all of the effects associated with negative labelling.
The New Right believe in Marketisation (schools competing like businesses) and Parentocracy (parental choice) and they are well known for introducing league tables, GCSEs and OFSTED in the UK as part the 1988 Education Reform Act.
This post covers the underlying principles of New Right thought and should be read along with this post on the 1988 Education Act which outlines specific New Right education policies
They believe the state (government) cannot meet people’s needs.
The most efficient way to meet people’s needs is through the free market – through private businesses competing with each other.
Economic growth is an important overall goal – to be achieved by allowing individuals the freedom to compete with each other.
Key ideas of The New Right on Education
The New Right created an ‘education market’ – Schools were run like businesses – competing with each other for pupils and parents were given the choice over which school they send their children to rather than being limited to the local school in their catchment area. This lead to the establishment of league tables
Schools should teach subjects that prepare pupils for work, Hence education should be aimed at supporting economic growth. Hence: New Vocationalism!
The state was to provide a framework in order to ensure that schools were all teaching the same thing and transmitting the same shared values – hence the National Curriculum
Evaluation of New Right ideas on Education
Competition between schools benefited the middle classes and lower classes, ethnic minorities and rural communities ended up having less effective choice – refer to the handout criticising the 1988 Education Act
Vocational Education was also often poor – refer to the HO on Vocational Education
There is a contradiction between wanting schools to be free to compete and imposing a national framework that restricts schools
The National Curriculum has been criticised for being ethnocentric and too restrictive on teachers and schools
The Neoliberal and New Right view of education
You might also like the mind map below – a more up to date summary of neoliberalism and the new right