Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

Cast your mind back. When the schools' league tables of raw results were introduced by the Conservatives the big beef against them was that they did not measure value added by individual schools as they took no account of what sort of intake a school had.

Now these New Labour tables claim to do exactly that. And, surprise, surprise, head teachers have called for the "value added" league tables to be scrapped.

What absolutely terrifies state schools is not that the tables will fail to measure school performance accurately but that they will succeed.

I rather think that the line of argument in the initial complaints, back in the days of raw results, was selected in the confident expectation that, for reasons of politics or technical difficulty, no one would ever work out a metric for value added. That made it safe to complain that the tests were unfair while not looking as if you were objecting to being assessed per se. Teachers rightly sensed that your average salesman or bank employee isn't going to weep over teachers having to undergo performance assessment when it is routine in his or her own job. Anyway, now it turns out that it was not a safe line of argument. Someone has bothered to work out a means of measuring value added. Oh sheesh kebabs.

The slower-moving members of the teaching establishment have not cottoned on and are still complaining that the tests are insufficiently "contextual." The brighter sparks are saying, shut up you fools or some git in the DfES will contextualise us where the sun don't shine.

Don't get the impression from this that I am in always favour of testing or publication of league tables. All the arguments against tests are true sometimes. In my ideal world each school would decide for itself - and parents would draw their own conclusions if a school declined to state its results. These conclusions might be positive or negative.