Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Top of the Class

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Top of the Class

Article excerpt

Byline: By Graeme Whitfield

New research has rated a Gateshead primary school the best in the country ( and raised serious questions about the Government's plans for education reform.

The "alternative school league tables", produced by researchers at two London universities, rate Larkspur Primary School, in Beacon Lough, Gateshead, the best in the country, with three other North-East primaries also in the top 10.

The research shows how children's social background is the overwhelming factor that decides how schools do in the conventional league tables.

But it raises questions over Government plans to reform the school system, which the researchers said would create "greater rather than less inequality".

The research comes just a few days after the publication of the Government's Education Bill, which proposes giving schools more freedom to compete for children.

Professor Tim Butler, co-author of the report, said: "Given all the background factors, it's apparent that some of the schools that do really well in our research aren't necessarily the ones that appear at the top of the normal tables.

"What our research shows is that the rational thing for parents to do is seek out schools with a high proportion of kids from advantaged areas.

"The Education Bill, as it is currently proposed, would allow them to do that.

"But if the best schools attract more advantaged children and the struggling schools have a less mixed intake, my feeling is that that will lead to greater rather than less inequality."

Prof Butler, from King's College London, carried out the research with Professor Richard Webber at University College London.

They used data from the Department of Education and Skills on children's test scores and analysed it through Mosaic, a computer programme that divides the country by postcode.

The research showed that a child's social background was by far the biggest single factor to determine how well they do at school. …

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