Media Release – League Tables Are on the Way

The public education advocacy group, Save Our Schools, says that the Federal Government has deceived the public about the introduction of school league tables.

SOS national convenor, Trevor Cobbold, warned that league tables are inevitable following decisions taken by Australian Governments at the end of last year.

“Make no mistake, league tables are on the way. The Federal Education Minister has pulled a ‘sleight of hand’ about league tables. Despite calling them ‘simplistic’, ‘silly’ and ‘dumb’, the Rudd Government has prepared the way for them to be introduced. It is the ultimate in political disingenuousness,” Mr Cobbold said.

“The Government’s tactic is to publish data on all schools which the media can then use to rank schools in performance league tables. It is simply copying what happens in England.

“This tactic is revealed in the wording of the new Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians which states that “governments will not themselves devise simplistic league tables or rankings”. Instead, it will be left to others to publish league tables using nationally comparable information on each school’s results provided by the new Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.

“The process will be similar to that used in England. The UK Government publishes alphabetical lists and pages of data on every school in each local education authority and the media turns them into league tables ranked by performance level (for example, see The Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/parentpower/league_tables.php ).”

Mr Cobbold said that the introduction of school league tables will increase social segregation and inequity in Australia’s education systems.

“There is no compelling evidence that league tables and greater choice and competition between schools increases student achievement. Claims about the benefits of reporting school results are refuted by extensive research studies in the United States and the UK.

“Indeed, the best research evidence points the other way. Major overseas studies show that they tend to increase social segregation between schools which exacerbates achievement gaps between rich and poor students and between black and white students.

“Australia already has a high degree of social segregation and large inequities in outcomes between students from rich and poor families. These are now likely to increase.”

Mr Cobbold said that governments are abrogating their responsibilities for school performance and seeking to shoulder blame on teachers, students and parents by agreeing to league tables.

“It is governments which should be held more accountable. This can be done by reporting the number of schools in each state/territory whose average results fall within different score ranges so that the extent of improvement from year to year can be assessed.

“It should be supplemented by reporting student performance across regions, as in a recent NSW Auditor-General’s report, and by SES and ethnic background to monitor progress in reducing achievement gaps.”

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