Performance tables for Scottish primary schools published by the Sunday Times

Neither the Scottish Executive nor local authorities publish information about academic standards in Scottish primary schools, even though the statistics are gathered by local authorities. The Sunday Times newspaper had to resort to freedom of information legislation to obtain the performance tables that they published today. According to the newspaper making this information available is "a historic first for the rights of parents of Scottish primary school children. Now, like parents in England, Scottish mums and dads can make an informed and confident choice about where they school their children."

The Sunday Times argues that the reason this information is not freely available to Scottish parents is because the Scottish Executive didn’t think they could be trusted with the information: "This raises two important questions for Scotland’s government led by first minister Jack McConnell. The first is whether they can continue to justify a culture of secrecy on the performance of Scotland’s schools, especially when concerned parents are hungry for full disclosure. The second is whether Scotland’s primary schools are fulfilling the most basic tasks that they are set."

The newspaper is critical of Ministers, local authorities and unions for their opposition to publishing the statistics: "Denying parents information about how schools are performing is wrong. To stop parents from making the most simple comparisons between schools shows a contempt for the public."

Professor Chris Woodhead, former HM Inspector of Schools in England, believes that providing information empowers parents to play a full role in their children’s schooling. “In a democratic society the parent who pays the teacher’s salary should know how the teacher is performing,” he says. “Politicians witter on about parental choice, but how can parents make an informed choice if they have no information about the relative performance of schools?”

Two years ago, Peter Peacock, Scotland’s education minister, scrapped league tables for secondary schools, claiming the picture they painted was “one-dimensional” and “simplistic”.

The Sunday Times concludes: "There is an old story about a BBC announcer introducing a classic film in this way: “And now, It’s a Wonderful Life — except for viewers in Scotland.” This failure to ensure open government shows the Scots really are for once hard done by in comparison with the English. The Scottish executive should be ashamed."

Comment: Scotland’s right to choose (Sunday Times - Scotland, 13 November 2005)

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