'Championing the rights of children'

'Obsession with league tables breeding double standards,' says new headmaster at Wellington College

Garry Wed 26 Aug 2015 09:03

An “obsession” with league tables is breeding double standards among schools, who argue against rankings but at the same time fiercely compete to come on top, Julian Thomas has said.

An “obsession” with league tables is breeding double standards among schools, who argue against rankings but at the same time fiercely compete to come on top, the incoming headmaster at Wellington College, has said.

Julian Thomas said a focus on top performance in rankings nurtures a style of teaching that’s more about encouraging students to learn facts and techniques to pass exams rather than long-term learning.

He also said league tables don’t paint a full picture of a school’s achievements and that it has become increasingly difficult to draw comparisons between institutions as a result of a flurry of new qualifications.

His dislike for league tables may be surprising to some because he is taking over a school that has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years because it jumped 193 places in league tables in six years under the leadership of Sir Anthony Seldon.

In his first interview ahead of taking over his post, Mr Thomas told the Daily Telegraph: “It’s important for our students to continue to get the very best they can achieve and that feeds into league table positions.

“If you start from that point of view, the league table position will take care of itself. What you must never, ever do is focus on league table positions and work backwards.”

But he said a constant focus on rankings is pushing schools towards double standards.

He said: “Sometimes you hear that there is a tension between schools arguing against league tables but at the same time being desperate to be high up in the rankings.

“I think in the independent sector you see it starting to break down: a number of schools are now pulling out of league tables.”

Read more... (Daily Telegraph - 25 August)