Transparency and sunlight are the best of things: the Department for Education has releases its country wide ‘performance tables’ for secondary schools. Good to see Northumberlands schools doing so well.
You can sift through them and I'd recommend you spend at least a couple of minutes doing just that. They reveal finer detail about schools and results than has been made public before, such as about how ‘disadvantaged children’ (those on free school meals or in local authority care for at least six months) perform in individual schools. We've seen facts similar to today's ‘only 33.9 per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieved five A*-C grade GCSEs including English and maths, compared to the national average of 58.2 per cent in maintained schools’, before now. It's more the capacity to delve down, quickly and easily, to a school-by-school level that's new.
These new school tables should make parents more informed. It's less about targets and rankings than simple truth. And the decent schools will get the full credit they deserve. Speaking of which, it turns out that — after the ARK group's impressive results yesterday — GCSE results at academies in general improved at almost twice the national average.
What's particularly encouraging is that there's more to come. Apparently, the Department for Education should be releasing even more detailed subject-by-subject data next month, in the build-up to the full National Pupil Database in the middle of the year. The government is excited about what this great mine of information will mean not just for education but also for the cause of transparency itself — and understandably so. The hope is that people outside of government will get their hands all over it and start producing snazzy, digital school guides that will tell parents everything they need to know. And they might tell educators and politicians the occasional thing too. If, for instance, one school is doing particularly well at teaching French, then there it is — visit it, learn its secret, spread it. Everyone stands to gain from this sort of transparency.