Union leader calls for performance table reform

A union leader has called for change to school league tables to ensure there is no incentive for schools to engage in off-rolling or other unethical behaviours. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), made the call as he addressed the second annual ethical leadership summit in London.

He described practices such as gaming of league tables and off-rolling as ‘plain wrong’ but noted that the current system did not discourage such practices. ‘In our system, it is simply a fact that a small number of rogue results can send your Progress 8 score into nosedive. It is a perverse incentive to do the wrong thing and ease out the pupils in the margins. These will inevitably be the young people who need the greatest support – vulnerable children who are struggling to cope. And when the stakes are so high – when careers and reputations hang in the balance – the temptation to find a way of gaming performance tables is also that much greater’ he said.

While noting that ‘There is never an excuse for this sort of behaviour regardless of these perverse incentives’, Mr Barton called for the range of measures included in school performance tables be broadened in order to ‘incentivise and reward good behaviour rather than expecting schools to do the right thing in spite of the system’. He suggested that new measures which could be assessed might include ‘how good a school is in supporting its most vulnerable pupils and their welfare… how well it collaborates and works with other schools for the good of every child in the area; and… the extra-curricular programme it offers its pupils’.

Mr Barton concluded his remarks by saying: ‘The ownership and promotion of ethics in education is a job for us – the leaders of our schools and colleges. But reforming the performance system in order to get rid of perverse incentives to do the wrong thing isn’t something in our power – it is a job for government and it must act.’

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