Report cards to herald revolution

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Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families, Ed Balls has set out evidence showing how the link is being broken between deprivation and poor attainment.

Speaking to the Association of College and School Leaders annual conference in Birmingham Ed Balls said that all schools - including those in affluent areas - have a role to play in breaking the link. Only a quarter of pupils entitled to free schools meals are in the most deprived areas and 28 per cent of all secondary pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) are in schools with below average levels of deprivation.

He said that over the past 10 years, gaps between areas and between schools have narrowed significantly with faster progress made by more deprived areas and by schools with the highest levels of free school meal pupils.

But FSM pupils are still over three times less likely to get these good GCSE grades than a child who is not entitled to free school meals and are over three times less likely to succeed at every Key Stage than a non free school meals pupil.

Mr Balls said that the school report card will herald a revolution in school accountability so that heads will be measured on the progress of every child rather than the average.

“I understand the frustration of school leaders," he said. "They know that parents like to use league tables because they provide clear information about performance and allow them to compare local schools but those league tables focus on the performance of the average child in the school. They don’t recognise whether schools are stretching their most gifted and talented pupils or helping those who have fallen behind catch-up. And while league tables allow schools to demonstrate progress, they don’t recognise how well schools are collaborating with other local schools and driving up standards in both.

“And that’s why I believe we have a real opportunity with our new School Report Card to revolutionise the school accountability system so that for the first time it properly reflects exactly what our great school leaders and modern state schools are all about. Great schools are about improving standards and working in partnership, supporting the progress of every pupil and tackling all the barriers to the progress and well being of children.

A new evidence paper shows that over the past 10 years the gaps between disadvantaged and affluent areas, and between schools with high and low numbers of FSM pupils, have narrowed significantly. From 1999 to 2008 the most deprived secondary schools achieved a 19 percentage point rise in the proportion of pupils getting five GCSEs including English and maths, compared to a 10 percentage point rise for the least deprived schools. In primary schools the rise was 19 percentage points compared to 6 percentage points in English at age 11.

15/03/09

School Leadership Today
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