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Parents' need for data growing, says new survey

SIMS Independent survey shows over half of schools are seeing more requests for comparison of children's academic ranking

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 07, 2016 | People, policy, politics

According to a recent survey, 59% of independent school staff have seen an increase in the number of parents wanting to know how their child’s academic achievement compares to that of their peers.

Of those surveyed, just over half (52%) said their schools did not provide information on a child’s ranking to their parents and had no plans to do so. Nineteen per cent said details of a child’s ranking were regularly shared with parents, 11% were planning to introduce this and 11% said they would offer such information on request. The survey was conducted at the Capita SIMS Independent and International annual conference.

Commenting on the results, Deborah Fisher, head of SIMS Independent, said: “The findings of our survey show a mix of approaches when it comes to measuring and demonstrating pupil achievement in schools.

“In most schools, a wide range of information is used to set challenging yet achievable targets for each child and monitor their progress towards them. Grades in academic subjects, as well as house points received for success in sport, drama or music, for example, can help with this. The information might be used to compare the progress being made by individuals or groups in order to raise attainment, but decisions around sharing details with parents rest with the school.  

“Some parents like to know how their child is progressing in relation to their classmates and others do not consider this a priority. A school’s own ethos and values will determine how and what information is shared and families will take this into consideration when choosing a school for their child.” 

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Toby Belfield, principal of Ruthin School, that regularly shares ranking information with parents, said: “At Ruthin, we share all academic and pastoral data with parents, online and in real time. Our pupils know their position in class for every subject, as well as their overall ranking in the school, and so do their parents. We have found that in our school, this encourages healthy competition between pupils, which often leads to notable improvements in academic performance.

“Ranking data also helps us react very quickly to provide appropriate support to those individuals who need it, including extension work for gifted and talented pupils, so that every child benefits from the best possible academic outcome.”

Andrew Gordon-Brown, Headmaster at Truro School, said: “Because we focus on individuals, we look for reasons to praise pupils who are improving, who are making a big effort, are being organised, are consistently submitting homework to a high standard or exceeding their learning targets. We have a prize system that reflects this philosophy and we have found that for our school, this is a great way to motivate students to achieve their best, whatever their personal gifts may be.”

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