Bet the unions won’t support changes like this to improve education

The UK is in a similar position to NZ in the latest PISA rankings in education.

While our teacher unions oppose every move to improve things the UK is busy implementing changes that evidence shows is helping. Like the publishing of League Tables, something that teacher union oppose the world over.

The Irish Times explores league tables:

What if official school league tables have been shown to improve the performance of schools and lessen educational inequality? What if school league tables are good for education?

Well three years ago a research paper with precisely those findings made waves across the water in the UK.

England and Wales have very similar education systems. Between 1992 and 2001, both English and Welsh systems published annual school performance tables, based on GCSE (Junior Cert level) exam results. But then, in 2001, the Welsh parliament voted to stop.

Here was a natural experiment between two identical systems, one of which now lacked a key component of accountability: the official school league table. Researchers at Bristol university, led by Prof Simon Burgess, decided to look at what happened next.

The result, according to their findings, was ?systematic, significant and robust? evidence that abolishing school league tables reduced the academic effectiveness of Welsh schools.?

Results fell dramatically. Welsh GCSE performance levels fell by almost two grades per student, per year. That?s a student who would have managed a B in a subject scraping through with a D. The effect was spread across the different subjects, but two full grades worth of a decrease is a huge effect, even when spread across five or six exams.

Until 2001, the performance of students in England and Wales was very similar. After league tables were abolished the performance of Welsh students deteriorated. If , rather than abolishing the league tables, the Welsh authorities had opted to increase class sizes by one-third, this would have had a similar effect, according to the researchers. The drop in standards was also confirmed by the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Interestingly, this negative effect was concentrated in the bottom 75 per cent of schools. The top 25 per cent were unaffected by the abolition of league tables. Their results remained as high as ever and in line with their English counterparts. The abolition of the league tables had actually increased educational inequality.

So no league tables affects the poorest in society. Nice of the unions to care so little for those among us with the least.

There is no silver bullet, but we should be doing those things in education which produces the results that enable all students to succeed. The teacher unions though prefer in our ‘world class’ system that is dropping standards to leave a tail of 20% behind.