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Durham University News



School league tables will still be damaging, say Durham University experts

(24 June 2011)

Professor Peter Tymms, School of Education

Professor Peter Tymms, School of Education

Education experts commenting on the proposals of the Lord Bew review of Key Stage 2 believe that the use of school league tables will continue to be damaging to schools, parents and pupils.

The review looked at a number of issues, including how best to ensure schools are properly accountable to pupils, parents and the taxpayer for the achievement and progress of every child, on the basis of objective and accurate assessments.

Professor Peter Tymms and Dr Christine Merrell from Durham University, who both gave evidence to the review panel, believe the panel has taken on board their main argument for the value of computer adaptive assessments. They take issue, however, with the report's proposed solution on league tables and the publication of more information.

Professor Tymms has written influential reports on assessment and is Head of Department in the School of Education, Durham University. He has previously criticised the publication of Key Stage 2 data in league tables for not portraying an accurate picture of the quality of the teaching or pupils' progress over time. Instead, he recommends carefully calculated progress measures being available only to those with a professional or personal interest in the schools.

Commenting on the report, Professor Peter Tymms, said: "We welcome Lord Bew's Report, in which he carefully assesses the mood within the country and weighs the evidence within the panel's constraints.

"He has taken some wise decisions, opening up the writing element to teacher assessment but keeping tests in some areas, albeit with some changes.

"The decision to mitigate the negative effects of league tables by publishing more information and using rolling averages is interesting, but will not be sufficient to prevent the harm which those tables cause."

Dr Christine Merrell, Director of Research and Development, Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring (CEM Centre) in the School of Education, Durham University, said: "We argued for the value of earlier assessments, using diagnostic assessments to help the teachers teach their pupils, and in particular for the use of computer adaptive assessments of the type that we have pioneered.

"We are delighted to see that Lord Bew recommends further exploration of this approach with the possibility of it being introduced in the long term."

Lord Bew led a small review panel consisting of two education experts, a number of primary head teachers and one secondary school Principal to review Key Stage 2 testing, assessment and accountability. The final report, published on June 23 2011, discusses the evidence and feedback received by the panel and outlines its final recommendations.

In England and Wales, Key Stage 2 refers to the four years of schooling in schools normally known as Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6, when pupils are aged between 7 and 11.

The Independent Review of Key Stage 2 testing, assessment and accountability: Final Report: June 2011, can be downloaded from


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