School performance tables should be overhauled to get rid of the perverse incentives that see a minority of schools “do the wrong thing”, according to ASCL leader Geoff Barton.
Addressing the second annual ethical leadership summit in London today, Barton will throw down the gauntlet to the government to act to discourage “unacceptable practices” amongst some school leaders, such as gaming and off-rolling pupils.
The union chief said that while there was never an excuse for schools adopting such poor practice, it was closely associated with” “the topsy-turvy way in which the performance of schools is measured and judged.”
Barton said: “In our system, it is simply a fact that a small number of rogue results can send your Progress 8 score into nosedive. It is a perverse incentive to do the wrong thing and ease out the pupils in the margins.
“These will inevitably be the young people who need the greatest support – vulnerable children who are struggling to cope. And when the stakes are so high – when careers and reputations hang in the balance – the temptation to find a way of gaming performance tables is also that much greater.”
Last year, the then education secretary Damian Hinds pledged to implement a recommendation from the Timson review what would see the results of pupils tied to the school that excluded them.
But Barton pushed the government to go further to encourage schools to do the right thing in the first place, such as broadening the range of measures that are included in school performance tables.
He said: “They might also look, for example, at how good a school is in supporting its most vulnerable pupils and their welfare; at how well it collaborates and works with other schools for the good of every child in the area; and about the extra-curricular programme it offers its pupils. This would be more useful and informative for parents than the current system with its narrow focus on test and exam results, and it would incentivise the right things.”
Today’s summit, which follows on from last year’s launch of a Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, will focus on the work being developed by the National Governance Association, Chartered College of Teaching, and Association of School and College Leaders.
Barton said: “The ownership and promotion of ethics in education is a job for us – the leaders of our schools and colleges. But reforming the performance system in order to get rid of perverse incentives to do the wrong thing isn’t something in our power – it is a job for government and it must act.”