Schools 'Could Be Allowed to Cover Up Exam Failures'; Ministers Want Law Changed on Handbooks for Parents

Article excerpt

Byline: Graham Grant Home Affairs Editor

PARENTS could be denied the right to find out how their children's school's exam results compare with others in Scotland, it was warned yesterday.

The Scottish Government is seeking a change in legislation that will mean schools are not required to include national statistics on exam performance at Higher Grade in handbooks for parents.

The move follows a consultation which suggested parents were more interested in information about their children's own school than they were about comparisons with others.

The Scottish Government argues that a wealth of national statistics are easily accessible online.

The bulk of those are contained on a website created under the previous, Labour-led administration at Holyrood.

The site was part of a failed bid to try to stop the media compiling exam result league tables by making it harder to make comparisons.

Last night, there were fears that giving schools the go-ahead to miss out data about the relative performance of their school could mean parents being deprived of crucial information.

The disclosure comes after the Scottish Daily Mail revealed last week that 97 per cent of Scottish schools were failing to meet a key exam target - at least 50 per cent of pupils passing three or more Highers.

Scottish Tory education spokesman Elizabeth Smith said national information should be included in school handbooks.

She added: 'There are significant concerns about the shallow use of national statistics to judge how well a school is doing and what is equally important is how well a school meets, or exceeds, the expectations of their particular group of pupils.

'However, national statistics and national comparisons can highlight where schools are punching above their weight, or falling behind.

'The Government has already removed Scotland from key international studies looking at educational trends and there is a debate to be had over the importance of wider comparison data.

'We need a blend of local and national statistics so parents can make an informed choice about the merits of a particular school and that information should be readily available in the school handbook.'

But Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, backed the Scottish Government.

She said: 'I don't think this information should be included. There should be information on the progress within the school and the benefits it brings to pupils.

'Teachers can work exceptionally hard to build confidence in individuals, but every year those same staff can be at the bottom of the league tables, which is entirely unfair because they are doing wonderful work which is not being recognised. …