League tables are no guide to a good school

Howard Knight's picture
I've been tempted to write after I recently clicked on to a website telling me it offered a 'Good Schools Guide'. Any parent, taking at face value the information offered about Byron Wood Primary School, would have kept their child at home.

Leaving aside the fact that the data offered was well out of date, it also provided a superb illustration about how the selective use of data alone can provide a totally misleading picture of a school's character and performance.

Seven years ago, Byron Wood was in special measures - and rightly so. However, since then, new governors and new headteachers, with a determination to ensure that every child can realise his or her potential, have transformed the school. That wasn't always easy - we said very clearly that 'satisfactory' teaching wasn't good enough for our children and challenges; it had to be consistently 'good' or 'excellent'.

We have particular challenges: the vast majority of the children (and parents) have English as an additional language, and we have a turnover approaching 40% pa.

For those reasons alone, the school is never likely to feature at the top of the SATS league tables. However, what those don't show is that the school does far better at adding-value than most schools, and that progress, for those children who have the whole of their education in the school, puts it amongst the top performers in the city.

It's no surprise that OFSTED's recent report described many aspects of the school as Outstanding, including the way it deals with both challenging behaviour and bright children.

As both a parent and a governor, I celebrate the progress that has been made, what the school is achieving now and the fact that there is no complacency because we all believe we can do even better. I am delighted that my young son, like other children, enjoys and feels safe in his school.

Do we want to be a stand-alone school, in competition with other local schools to the detriment of us all? No, of course not. We want to be both competitive and collaborative.

We'd also like to be within the supportive framework of a local schools' education system - something that hasn't always been there - which has the attitude of 'we can do if........' not 'we can't do because...'.

It takes a long time to change the perception of a school, and it doesn't help when the media focuses on misleading league tables. Parents need to look behind that information to get to the reality.

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