Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Destination Data Branded 'Drivel' by Headteachers: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Destination Data Branded 'Drivel' by Headteachers: News

Article excerpt

Union says government was wrong to publish 'flawed' statistics.

The Vast new tables of statistics are supposed to shed light on schools' success in preparing pupils for the next steps of their lives. But a week after the government published the first "destination data" showing how many pupils individual schools have sent to leading universities, a heads' union has described it as "deeply flawed" and riddled with inaccuracies and omissions.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it was wrong to publish incomplete information, dating back three years, which does not recognise pupils who have secured full-time jobs. Employment data is not due to be included in the figures until next year.

The union is also angry that schools' success in getting pupils into university has not been fully credited. Students on gap years with deferred university entry - including those with highly prized places at Oxford and Cambridge - currently count as Neet (not in employment, education or training), the ASCL said.

Education secretary Michael Gove has long focused on the low numbers of free school meals children who win places at Oxford or Cambridge. But concerns have been raised that focusing on these two universities reinforces prejudice and could be damaging to schools in poorer areas.

Errors in the data have also been identified: one head complained that the statistics show that her school sent 11 pupils to the Russell Group league of top universities, when in fact it sent 24.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the ASCL, said that the information could be helpful to schools, but should not have been made public. "It is a very important source of useful information for schools to have as part of their ongoing self-evaluation, but turning it into an accountable measure, especially when it is incomplete, can be misleading and damaging," he said.

It is more important to have data that shows whether schools are helping pupils to go on to endeavours that suit their needs, rather than narrow drivers such as Oxbridge entry, Mr Lightman added.

The union's deputy policy director, Duncan Baldwin, said he had been on the phone to a head who complained that the statistics were "drivel". "We asked for feedback from members and the gist is that it is deeply flawed," Mr Baldwin said. "It's so full of holes, it renders it meaningless."

One of the measures that the government has chosen - progression to Russell Group universities - has triggered concerns because it excludes many high-ranking institutions. Other universities, some of which place higher than Russell Group members in the Times Higher Education international rankings, such as St Andrews and Sussex, do not receive any special mention. …

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