Private league tables would bring public benefits


schoolkidsYesterday researchers at Bristol University released a report claiming to prove that league tables create better results in schools. The report’s authors have shown that schools in Wales, where league tables were abolished in 2001, are achieving worse results than those in England. In principle, it makes sense that the existence of information for the consumer would increase competition and therefore the quality of the school. But, as I have argued before, in their current form league tables are broken and inhibit educational success.

Setting aside the other factors that may have affected this result, it still seems that Wales made the right decision to abandon league tables defined by government targets. The report’s release coincides with the Chief Executive of Ofqual calling for the abolition of the very targets that make up these tables, arguing that the current system of tables is an inadequate provision of information. “Simplistic” league tables, which only consider whether a child has achieved five GCSE of C or higher, narrow children’s learning and create a tendency to “teach to the test”. There are many other factors other than simple results that create a good school.

Obviously it is good for pupils to gain as high a grade as possible. However, this is not parents’ only priority when it comes to their children’s education. It seems that rather than Wales being wrong to abandon league tables, it was the inability of the government to create a more effective way of providing information to the parents. This meant that there was no way to compare schools and thus competition was not fostered.

Privatizing league tables would make them accountable to the consumer rather than the government, and would provide a broader ranking of schools. If the government stopped crowding out private companies’ league tables, competition would allow private tables to use wider criteria than government targets, and in turn spark greater competition between schools.