Head of education board hits out at school league tables

Head of education board hits out at school league tables
Ted Owens, Chief Executive Cork ETB. Picture: Jim Coughlan

THE chief executive of the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) has criticised league tables for schools, saying they leave a skewed impression of success.

The CETB is the patron of a number of primary, secondary, and third-level institutes in Cork.

The chief executive of the organisation, Ted Owens, said league tables, which show the number of pupils from each school who entered third level education, are not a fair representation of the work schools put in.

“I’ve told our school principals that if any of them did send 100% of their students to university, I would have a huge problem because, basically, to achieve that figure effectively means you’re not being an inclusive school.

“It shows you’re not catering for students who want to become an apprentice, who want to go into the workforce, or who are not of the highest academic ability,” he said.

“League tables have been very much to the fore in recent times.

“They damage morale in schools, particularly in schools in socially deprived areas that are working hard to do the best they can for students in difficult circumstances.”

Mr Owens said the league tables of “feeder schools” for colleges can often give the wrong impression of schools.

“I am even prouder of some ETB schools at the bottom of league tables because they’re achieving so much more for children.”

Quality should not be based on how people do in exams, according to Mr Owens.

“As an education leader with schools at both ends of the spectrum, I’m in a position to be critical of those league tables,” he said.

“However, I realise that league tables are here to stay, they’re a form of titillation akin to page three of tabloids.

“I’ve been asked for years to comment on league tables and have always refrained from doing so because in a perverse way, condemning them is counter-productive,” he added.

“Pointing out the schools at the bottom of league tables often leads to further isolation as ambitious parents steer their children elsewhere.

“What about the kid who doesn’t want to go to university?” asked Mr Owens.

He called for league tables to take other aspects, such as apprenticeships and Further Education (FE) institutes into consideration, or for parents to consider whole school evaluations, published by the Department of Education, instead of relying solely on the tables for information.

“The current tables do not count how many students went into the workforce or go on to do an apprenticeship or to study in a further education college, which is what they might want to do,” he said.

“There’s no league table for those.”

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