ACT News

A league of league table opponents attack comparison of My School results

Australian Education Union ACT secretary Glenn Fowler wants the newspaper to stop publishing school rankings.
Australian Education Union ACT secretary Glenn Fowler wants the newspaper to stop publishing school rankings. Photo: Supplied

The Australian Education Union's ACT secretary, Glenn Fowler, usually reads The Canberra Times. But he refuses to at this time of year – preferring instead to line the bottom of a bird cage with its annual league tables of school performance. 

Public education groups have again urged the newspaper to stop publishing rankings of all schools based on their NAPLAN results, which are detailed on the My School website.

The authority that runs the national website also condemns the practice.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority said it "opposes the use of simplistic league tables, which result in unfair comparisons between schools".

Mr Fowler said: "The Canberra Times' decision to again present student learning in terms of a sporting competition is disappointing. It is an unintelligent and inappropriate way to depict young people's learning.

"Parents deserve much better than this. They have a right to information about how schools are really performing.


"Attention-grabbing headlines and reductive graphics that pay no heed to the background students come from, the value schools add or the limits of the assessment instrument concerned, obscure the reality."

Mr Fowler said he withdrew his own children from NAPLAN testing because of his deep philosophical opposition to the way in which the newspaper used the data.

"Educators are happy to be accountable for the job we do but we won't accept young children being humiliated in the process," he said.

"The league table approach involves labelling children as young as eight in the 'losers' category at the bottom of the ladder. Every year it delivers a demoralising blow to our most disadvantaged school communities.

"To make its league table, The Canberra Times uses results from a test that doesn't even purport to measure some of the highest goals of education.

"The NAPLAN tests don't measure critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical and intercultural understanding or even students' ability to use IT. Nothing about the league table approach acknowledges the narrow nature of this single measure," Mr Fowler said.

The ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations also condemned league tables.

Its spokesman, Hugh Boulter, said: "Listing schools by their average NAPLAN scores and suggesting the top school is the best is a fiction.

"League tables only show where a school's students are, not how far they have come. They don't show how far the school has taken them.

"This hides the excellent work which schools do with disadvantaged students."

"To compare schools with very different student backgrounds is not valid.

"This fact is recognised by the makers of the My School  website, from which The Canberra Times gets this data. My School does not allow direct comparisons to be made between schools with different student backgrounds. The Canberra Times gets around this by laboriously compiling data from each school and then comparing it in this crude way.

"Clearly, comparing the student population at an exclusive private school with those at a school in a disadvantaged area on the one table is not valid," Mr Boulter said.