School Performance Tables


  • School performance tables are based on a narrow definition of pupil performance.  It is impossible to capture a school’s contribution to pupils’ wider education or to their social and personal development through performance tables. 1
  • Even with the use of contextual value added data, the work that schools do to narrow the achievement gap is not fully reflected in performance tables.  This, therefore, gives a misleading impression of the quality of schools which serve disadvantaged areas. The information provided by the tables fails to reflect the character, ethos and catchment area of a school.2 
  • Performance tables are over-reliant on GCSE and Key Stage 2 National Curriculum test results which puts schools in an invidious position of teaching to the test which in turn narrows the curriculum for pupils.   
  • Performance tables act as perverse incentives. Schools may feel constrained to concentrate on pupils at the borderline of achieving Government determined indicators of achievement. The current approach to publish test results does not directly raise achievement or improve schools and it does not benefit individual pupils.3
  • The tables widen the gap between schools in better off communities and those in economically and socially deprived areas. Many good schools fall in the bottom half of the tables because they serve poorer communities. There is a well-established link between child poverty and academic attainment yet performance tables fail to reflect the hard work that schools put in to try and compensate for the poverty that many children experience.4
  • Some schools may be reluctant to admit SEN pupils or those who have behavioural problems if they feel they might affect the school’s position in the tables. Recognising the achievements and progress of children with SEN requires a move away from narrow measures of attainment, as reported in the tables, to look at a child’s all-round achievement.
  • Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not publish performance tables because of their adverse effect on schools and the limited information they provide.  In Scotland, performance tables have never been published and this has not affected the quality of education nor parents’ satisfaction with the level of information they receive.
  • Parents do not find performance tables particularly useful for choosing schools.5 Furthermore, the public does not support the tests and examinations on which performance tables are based; 61 per cent of people agree that “so much attention is given to exam results that a pupil’s everyday classroom work counts for too little”; and 64 per cent think that “schools focus too much on tests and exams and not enough on learning for its own sake.”6

1 Harvey Goldstein (1997), ‘Assessing the performance of schools: limits and league tables’ [online], Available at:

2 ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (2011), How useful are school league tables? [online]. Available at:

3 CBI (2012), ‘CBI calls for overhaul of school system to deliver for all’ [online]. Available at:

4 Donald Hirsch (2007), ‘Experiences of poverty and educational disadvantage’, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Available at:

5 ParentsOutloud (2008), ‘League Tables/ school places’ [online]. Available at:

6  National Centre for Social Research, British Social Attitudes: The 27th report, page 66, December 2010