Metrics to measure schools by

Posted on 22-01-2012

In my last post, I argued that we should publish as much information about schools as possible so parents can use it to create their own league tables of what they find valuable.

I also argued that measuring schools by one metric only was problematic because it’s too easy to game one metric. Instead, the government should look at four or five metrics. If a school try too hard to focus on one, it will show up in the others.  The aim would be to get four or five metrics which between them capture most of what we want a school to be doing. Thus, the problem with the 5 A-C measure is that it encourages schools to force pupils through vocational subjects that are worth 2-4 GCSEs, even if those subjects aren’t best suited to that pupil. The problem with the 5 A-C measure and the E-Bacc measure is the C/D borderline problem. They both encourage schools to focus their resources on D-grade students. Moving a pupil from a B grade to an A grade or an E grade to a D-grade is given no weight on these measures.

@MrChas left a very interesting comment on this post suggesting that using four or five indicators could work. From his experience in the private sector, you can try and game one or two metrics, but when you have four or five, then it becomes very difficult. As he rather elegantly puts it:

Once you get to 4 or five measures, as the writer here says, you can ‘cheat’ on maybe one, but then as soon as you do it kicks the others way out of kilter. Like trying to squeeze into jeans a size too small. The fat has to go SOMEWHERE, it just pops up in a different place !

And now, it seems like Nick Gibb wants to do something similar. In The Telegraph, he admits some of the problems with the current league table system, says that he will be publishing more information on schools and comes up with some other metrics he would like to use.

So my question here is: if you had to pick FIVE measures to judge schools by,  what would they be? I will start off with my picks to get the discussion going – I haven’t thought these through in great detail but I do think each of them measures something valuable.

1. Percentage of pupils achieving E-Bacc.

2. Percentage of pupils who are functionally illiterate and innumerate (nationally this is 17% and 22% at 15).  (This would require a separate test, which could be problematic.)

3.Percentage of pupils who are NEET five years after leaving school. (I recognise there are data collection issues with this one).

4. Percentage of entries achieving As and A*s at GCSE.

5. Of pupils who failed to get level 4s in English and Maths at primary school, percentage achieving C or above in English and Maths at GCSE.