Suffolk school tables under fire

HEADTEACHERS and teaching unions across the region todaycriticised primary school league tables for adding pressure on pupils and distorting the true progress of schools.

HEADTEACHERS and teaching unions across the region today

criticised primary school league tables for adding pressure on pupils and distorting the true progress of schools.

The league tables, which were published todayinclude for the first time figures of how many 11-year-olds reached Level 5 in English, maths and science – above the Government's target of Level 4.

Headteachers believe the move increases pressure for schools to maintain or beat targets at the expense of other areas of a child's education, and said the league table system misleads parents.

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Rosemary Scott, headteacher at Bucklesham Primary School, Ipswich, said: "League tables are one of many tools that schools have to indicate and track their success. They can give a very inaccurate picture.

"I think it's very misleading for parents because they think it's an accurate indicator for the school. It's a huge pressure."

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Roy Blunden, headteacher of Cliff Lane Primary School, Ipswich, said league tables did not take into account progress made in specific areas of the school such as its area support centre for children with dyslexia.

Ian Crissell, headteacher of Combes Middle School, Stowmarket, added: "Schools, like every other institution, should be accountable to the people who provide their funding i.e. the public.

"The problem with data such as this and league tables is that they have no context. Schools promote many qualities and skills which cannot be measured but which are equally important."

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: "Stress is only one aspect of the distortions that the SATs create. It distorts the whole of the primary curriculum."

He added: "The NUT aim is to do away with the SATs and replace them with moderated teacher assessment which is far more accurate in describing what a child can actually do rather than what a child has actually been taught to do and say and write in tests."

Somersham Primary School, Ipswich, was ranked 28th in the county, and results rose in all three subjects, with by a 100% pass rate in science. The school's combined results over the past three years mean it is ranked among the most improved schools in the country since 2000.

Headteacher Ken Marrable, said when he was appointed the school had 'almost hit rock bottom', but staff had turned it round.

"However, league tables are something which I really don't believe in - we are not better than other schools, we just do our jobs well and our kids are really happy."

Ipswich's Morland Primary School, is another of the country's most improved schools over the past three years and scores improved across all three core subjects.

Headteacher Ken Lunn, said: "I think the key is very solid teamwork. That said, I don't think a lot of the tables. It's nice to get a pat on the back, but it's also very damning when the tables aren't favourable."

Sproughton Primary School was ranked joint second this year and achieved a 100% pass rate in English, maths and science.

Headteacher Peter Gann said: "I acknowledge that village schools are in a privileged situation from the point of view of facilities and it strikes me that sometimes larger town schools that make as much progress with youngsters do not get as many children at level four and above."

He was sceptical about the uses of the league tables and said they could only provide a "definite comparison" if the size and location of the schools matched.

Stutton Primary School was ranked joint twelfth this year, slipping two places from last year. All its pupils passed English at level four, the government's required standard, and 73% achieved level five.

In maths and science 91% passed at level four and 64% achieved level five.

Headteacher Anne Clarke, said: "I think we have had fantastic results this year. We have done particularly well with level five across the board."

Pupils at Wilby Primary School, Eye achieved a 100% pass rate in science with 91% of the 11 pupils who took the tests passing maths and English.

A total of 55% of English students, 64% of maths and 82% of science attained a level five result in the tests. The school is ranked joint twelfth this year.

Garry Deeks, headteacher, said: "Over many years small schools across Suffolk have done very well and the league tables recognise the hard work of children, the skills of the teachers and the involvement of parents as well."

He added that the tables, which only include schools that had more than ten pupils sitting the tests, can present a "narrow view" of the wide range of opportunities at schools.

Duncan Bathgate, headteacher of Bealings School, Woodbridge said it was the fifth year running that the school had achieved a 100% pass rate at level four in English, maths and science.

The 19 students who sat the tests made the school the best in the county this year, with 63% of English and maths pupils and 79% of science students achieving a level five in the tests.

Mr Bathgate said: "The best way of measuring a school's achievement is to question whether the children are going home happy, excited and inspired by what's going on at school."

He added that the school figures show 68% of the children, not 63%, achieved level five in the English tests and it is now disputing the result with the Department of Education and Skills.

Needham Market Middle School, climbed 57 places from last year to a ranking of 48 in the county. Out of the 64 pupils that took the tests 78% achieved a pass in English, 81% in maths and 94% in science.

Headteacher Sue Hull said: "Education is about so many things not just about test scores in English, maths and science."

Kirkley Middle School, Lowestoft was 109th out of the bottom 200 school schools in the country, which were ranked in a table by the percentage of half days missed by the pupils due to unauthorised absence.

Suffolk County Council said the county had improved results in English and science at Key Stage 2, according to the performance tables.

Science continues to be the best subject in Suffolk measured by these tests with 86% of pupils reaching the expected level (level 4 and above) in science, compared to 85% last year.

The results in English are up by 1% this year, with 75% of pupils reaching the expected level in 2003. The percentage of Suffolk pupils reaching the expected level in maths remained static this year at 69%.

Tony Lewis, member of Suffolk County Council's Executive Committee, said: "A lot of hard work has gone into making sure that our young people have the core skills they need to succeed in later education, and these results show that we are making progress in these areas. We will of course continue to target our experts at those areas where we would like to see more improvement."

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