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Are League Tables Good for Education?

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.

Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20628795

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The New Right’s View of Education

The New Right introduced the 1988 Education Reform Act and believe in Marketisation and Parentocracy within the framework of a National Curriculum and with teaching and learning monitored by OFSTED. 

Underlying principles of the New Right

  • 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-

  1. 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

  1. Schools should teach subjects that prepare pupils for work, Hence education should be aimed at supporting economic growth. Hence: New Vocationalism!

  1. 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 the New Right

  • Competition between schools benefitted 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

Neoliberal new right education.png

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  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
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Related Posts 

Neoliberalism and the New Right – An Introduction

The Functionalist Perspective on Education

The Marxist Perspective on Education

The New Right View of the Family