How to compare schools in Scotland?

(58 Posts)
RedWelly Fri 21-Oct-11 11:57:00

We are going to move house next year, also the year ds1 will start primary. We currently live in central scotland and don't want to move very far but not being from the area don't have a lot of local knowledge re schools and have realised there are no league tables here any more. After an hour online looking for comparative reports of any kind, they just don't seem to exist. I phoned the council who said "we're not really into all that". I said what about Higher (A level equivalent) results A-C by school, surely parents want to know that?
- No. People just go to their local school.
Well, our local school ain't that great and like a lot of parents we'd be prepare to move to a better one - if we could get the information. But I'm starting to get a distinct sense of a conspiracy of silence. What am I missing? Is there a way of comparing schools?

Teetik Fri 21-Oct-11 12:04:45

You can get the latest report on any school and read it for yourself. Most people use word of mouth to judge a school on.
It's true that most people go to their local high school, there's no conspiracy about it. There's quite a strong culture still here of making do. (Except of course when the monied cityfolk send their kids to (mediocre) private schools, but that's a different sort of Scot.)
PS I think you are right and should go for the best option you can find, by asking around - but be careful how you word it.

macsaid Fri 21-Oct-11 12:15:37

In Scotland you go to the/one of the schools in your catchment area according to where you live, your local council offices will advise you of these. If you are RC you are entitled to separate schools in central Scotland.
If you need information about a school have a look at the HMie website and look at recent reports.
Also, ask around. Some high performing schools do not necessarily make staff or pupils happy

RedWelly Fri 21-Oct-11 12:29:00

Thanks for this. Be careful because....?
Why are there no league tables? Were parents fine with this when they were abolished? How do you improve schools without competition and diversity? How do you even know how they're doing?

CecilyP Fri 21-Oct-11 13:14:29

If you asking about primary, children's curriculum levels have never been published in the public domain. However, HMI reports should be available.

For secondary, you should be able to find standard grade and higher results - certainly up to 2010.

You can't get league tables, but you can see how your local school (or any other) compares with the average for the region and for Scotland as a whole. That gives you an idea where they would stand comparatively if they were in a league table.

www.ltscotland.org.uk/scottishschoolsonline/

The pages for secondary schools show results and staying-on rates. The primary ones only stuff like absences and free school meals which don't give you much idea how much the school adds value. But if you're thinking of moving, you'd probably focus on what the secondary is like and then get into a feeder primary anyway.

It's certainly true that most children in Scotland just go to their local school. But I don't think there's anything wrong in considering the alternatives.

catsareevil Fri 21-Oct-11 13:22:06

The results for individual secondary schools are in the HMIE reports.
I have also seen comparative lists for secondary school on the internet and in newspapers. Have you tried googling the names of some of the schools and see what comes up?

I have seen comparative tables for primary schools, though that was based on the old systemn, and now that curriculum for excellence has started they are probably obsolete.

Teetik Fri 21-Oct-11 13:22:50

Be careful because the make-do-with-what-you've-got ideal is very strong and it seems to really, really upset people permanently (and mark you) if you go against the grain. If you are trying to get something over and above what's on offer, you can find yourself categorised unfairly.

Teetik Fri 21-Oct-11 13:23:45

It depends how small a place you live in of course.

catsareevil Fri 21-Oct-11 13:25:02
haggisaggis Fri 21-Oct-11 13:35:16

WHere are you in SCotland? No doubt people on here could give you some idea of good schools.
We moved to ANgus recently and I found a 2009 league table here www.heraldscotland.com/go/schools. But we are fairly rural so not alot of choice abyway. I found further info by looking at the inspection reports of individual schools.
Also - teh "tables" only give a list of highers passed at 5th year - tehy don't give you any idea on what teh school is actually like. I spoke to parents of children already at the school to get opinions.

CecilyP Fri 21-Oct-11 15:58:17

I don't think many people will judge you if you don't send your child to the catchment school. In some cases, it might be perceived as snobbery but parents may do this for a number of reasons other than thinking that there is anything wrong with the catchment school. Eg the nearest school may not be the catchment school, another school may be near the parents' work or near a childminder's or grandparent's home. I have also known people choose a larger rather than a smaller village school, a town school when they lived in a village or a village school when they lived in a town.

RedWelly Fri 21-Oct-11 16:05:16

Thank you for all this info. We are in Perth & Kinross, have family in Blackford and thinking of moving to the Auchterarder area. We have flexibility because of my husband's job. However the stv link showed Kinross secondary school as being far and away the best, although I don't know how recent that is, and it doesn't show up at all in the Herald's 2009 list. It is a good point about focusing on the sec school and getting into the feeder - something I hadn't given too much thought to as they're only 4 and 2!

ForkInTheForeheid Fri 21-Oct-11 16:07:20

To answer your question about how you improve schools without "competition and diversity". Competition creates oversubscribed schools full of tutored kids in expensive houses and sink schools. It's overrated. Scotland has a very different approach to education IMO and it is a good thing. The school I work in has a varied catchment area (most expensive houses in town plus some of the most deprived areas are included) and it's the same with the other high schools. It means that instead of competition there is collaboration (to some extent at least) and the local authority doesn't have schools pulling in different directions.

Having said that, results are not disregarded and we have national and local authority targets to meet (5 at 5/5 at 3 have been really pushed).

HMIE reports are readily available online if you wish to check out any school your child will potentially be attending.

shesparkles Fri 21-Oct-11 16:12:40

Scottish schools don't do league tables and are on the whole probably better for it.
A lot of children do go to "out of catchment" schools, and it's easy to make a placing request (as long as it's within the same local authority area)
Placing requests are prioritised on the following criteria

1) children living within catchment area
2) children outwith the catchment, but with a sibling at the school
3) outwith the catchment and with no siblings at the school

If you're looking at a house, phone the education dept with the address and they'll be able to tell you which catchment area it's in. I know my local authority doesn't publish catchment areas as such, because they sometimes have to change depending on new builds etc

haggisaggis Fri 21-Oct-11 16:21:59

I know lots of people with kids at Auchterarder and all are happy with it. In fact, the village where we moved from is 4 miles from Blackford and although Auchterarder is not teh catchment secondary about 80% of parents choose it rather than the catchment school.
But I honestly don't think you cna go on teh tables. And remember that schools change - a good school now cuold be a bad one by the time your kids get to secondary age (and vice versa)

shesparkles Fri 21-Oct-11 17:10:46

waves to haggisaggis from not very far away at all grin

RedWelly Sat 22-Oct-11 14:26:56

I appreciate, we are fortunate. We are to able to choose to move to where a good school is, other considerations permitting. And, yes, who wouldn't prefer great local schooling of equally good standards no matter where you are in the country, whilst at the same time seeing innovations in each school and a mechanism by which these ideas and successes are shared between them?

I am  concerned that hiding league tables hinders parents from knowing how their school is doing comparatively, especially if you don't have local knowledge.. It prevents them from making an informed choice.

I agree that exam results are not the all encompassing measure, but I'd be inclined to believe that a school with good exam results, manages other things like behaviour and attendance better than others, especially if you can see snapshots of exam results over time to get a more balance picture and which would encompass how a school has improved. It is no longer easy to see anywhere, at a glance, the key, if not all-encompassing measure of comparative exam results, least of all over time.  You have to go to a report for a particular school to see it's own results.   Or depend on the subjective view of fallible inspectors with their own political biases is just not the same thing.  Parents for obvious reasons know only really about their own school, and nobody is going to want to say they're sending to a bad school. Recently, someone told that the Grammar school in Perth was now the best, which is simply false by reputation and by comparing results with the Academy and High School.

If the SED, with the enthusiastic collaboration of local education authorities is doing this to try to create a level playing field for laudable reasons, that's great. More cynically you might say they're making education  easier to administer because they don't want the problem of good schools being over-subscribed and the criticism and problems of amelioration they would have dealing with what are plain to see are bad schools. So they hide the facts by making it difficult to compare. 

What this actually means is that all schools are dragged down, do not compete, are not inspired by great schools and their success is left to the commitment of individual teachers. The ones I've met are increasingly disillusioned, stressed, overworked and bogged down in bureaucracy.   It improves ease of administration at the cost of driving down school quality, turning education into lowest common denominator education.  This is anti-majoritarian thinking at its worst, political correctness gone mad.  I think catering for the least able and most vulnerable is the mark of a civilized society, but not at the expense of the education of the majority.  And what of the most able?

There could be great schools people were proud of and improving schools that people knew about and attention, resource and support focused on them. If there was ever a case of masking a problem, brushing it under the carpet and destroying a country's potential this is it.

It turns parents and children, a whole generation, into passive, docile consumers, content with their lot and who do what they're told by those who're in charge. It reinforces that disease of narrow minded parochialism that I was warned about, the one deep-rooted for generations in the psyche of a lack of self-esteem, of inferiority, of hating those who go against the grain and who strive to improve their lot. 

It's clear, local authorities don't want parents to be able to have a choice of school at all. They let you have a choice of hospital care however.  Where is the consistency?   Look at it in the wider picture where the voice of Community Councils is being silenced, their power was stripped long ago. The end result is an administration which is happy for people to say what they like, but have no effective power, and who can change the status quo not at all. Doesn't this fly in the face of what democracy and democratic choice is about? Funnily enough, I heard an Egyptian say on the radio that that right to criticise but powerlessness was what is was like under Mubbarek.

Believe me, I intend no ad hominem criticism, I just don't understand why parents and schools seem to so happily to accept not knowing how their school is doing in comparison to others. Clearly, some schools will be better than others. Doesn't anyone want to know which these are, why this is, how this is and how schools can learn from the successes of others?

Perplexedly,

Red Welly.

catsareevil Sat 22-Oct-11 14:46:46

The information isnt hidden. People have posted links in this thread to the figures for exam results.

CecilyP Sat 22-Oct-11 15:14:12

Why don't you move to England, RedWelly? It provides exactly what you want.

handsomeharry Sat 22-Oct-11 15:38:33

Your other alternative is to move down to England and join in the scrummage for places at the 'good' schools or put your DC under pressure to get a place at a grammar school.

League tables of results have placed intense pressure on parents and children to get into the 'right'. You only have to read the threads on MN to understand that.

I know what I prefer.

RedWelly Sat 22-Oct-11 16:11:46

@CecilyP & HH. Yes, helpful advice. Why don't I. And Why didn't I think of that? Because, let's see, there must Other Limiting Factors. So what, put up or shut up? Now there's a groundbreaking, progressive attitude.

@Catsarevil. My bone is about easily comparative information. The Herald List is from 2009 and the STV list has no date. However, The Herald does have a list for 2010 and there is a brief summary in the Scotsman for 2011. But that's all. Nothing else easily comparative. And even there there are not many comparative indicators. But when I phoned the council I was told in the usual tone consistent with attitudes to social and racial diversity for which Scotland is so famous: "we're not into that [school comparison] up here". There is a wider point here about educational policy and attitude to local choice and empowerment more generally.

Here's a puzzle: we hear about the generally difficult conditions in schools, particularly around behaviour towards teachers and each other. We read about extreme drunkenness in the street, widesspread incivility, anti-social behaviour, selfishness, individualism, a fragmented society. I look at the local school. I see not even evidence of much care about their childrens behavior or even health; parents swearing, behaving badly, children copying them, children uncontrolled, uncontrollable. I look at another school: generally well-behaved children, different catchment area, but we're not in it. Does it matter to us which group our children socialize with? Absolutely, it matters hugely. So what should we do? Why do we have one view about problems of anti-social behaviour in society, but as soon as that translates to doing something to stop our children being exposed to, copying or retaliating against it at bad schools, it's called elitism?

Redwelly, are you Scottish?

RedWelly Sat 22-Oct-11 16:41:36

Now, AP, what do you think? But for that matter, what does it matter? Or perhaps that it matters, is only in Scotland. It's not where your from that matters here, it's how you sound or how you look. That speaks volumes about the degree of prejudice and thinly veiled racism.

catsareevil Sat 22-Oct-11 16:42:25

Have you seen the HMIE website? It gives reports for each individual school, though the exam figures in each one will only be as up to date as the report.

You do have a degree of choice with schools. If you dont want to use your catchment school you can make a placing request. Over 80% of these are granted.

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