Tower Hamlets teacher hits out at government over ‘consumer’ website for schools

A head teacher in Tower Hamlets has criticised a new government ‘consumer’ education-comparison website saying “choosing a school is not like buying insurance”.

The datatabase launched last week was hailed by Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, as ‘Go Compare’ for schools - with a searchable databank holding details, such as exam results, of England’s 22,000 state schools.

But Kenny Frederick, head of George Green’s School on the Isle of Dogs, fears schools in Tower Hamlets could be unfairly judged because statistics in areas such as school funding and the make-up of pupils are “not put in context.”

Ms Frederick said: “Choosing a school is not like buying insurance and so a comparison site like this only tells part of the story. In my view it should be used to ask further questions �—not to look at raw statistics and make judgements.”

She said the “most contentious” part shown are the money spent per pupil. “There are huge discrepancies between schools but no explanation is given,” she said.

“I believe inner-city schools such as mine will appear in a negative light because there are those who make negative assumptions about the number of pupils getting free school meals, with English as a second language or special educational needs. This is a shame because inclusive schools who cater for their local communities are very important in bringing communities together in a learning environment.”

But Ms Fredirick said she understood what the government was trying to do and that the website is “reasonably easy” to navigate, but restricts parents to comparing five schools. “This is quite arbitrary �—what if you wanted to compare all secondary schools in Tower Hamlets,” she said.

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Mr Fredererick advises parents choosing a school to look at a range of sources from school websites to Ofsted reports, and the government website. But most importantly, she said, parents need to visit the school themselves and meet with pupils and staff, and speak to other parents.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “We live in an age when people expect more information. Our schools should be no different. Parents have been desperate for more information on schools but too little has been available in the past. By publishing all this data we are giving parents the ability to choose the right school for their child. It will drive standards across the board and ensure schools are accountable for their performance.”