Measuring the true worth of schools

 

Sir, – As a network of 96 schools across Ireland, we at the Edmund Rice Schools can’t help but be interested in the annual feeder school data. While our view, as a network of very diverse schools, is that league tables do little more than highlight social inequalities, it is always hard to resist the temptation to click through to see how “our” schools did.

And for the most part our schools do exceptionally well. If you are going to base education success on the outcomes of a points race only, as a network we can proudly say that four of the seven students across the country who achieved eight A1s in the 2018 Leaving Certificate came from very different Edmund Rice Schools.

But academic achievement, points and progression to third-level are narrow measurements of what it means to be a good school. In one of the schools attended by one of these students, the principal said that the biggest achievement of 2018 was supporting a student who wanted to opt for the Leaving Certificate Applied to do the Leaving Certificate exam. That student, despite his doubt, passed all of his subjects.

We would much prefer to see a league table that is focused on the holistic social and personal development of students and that appreciates the guidance and values that schools provide every day. How refreshing it would be for Ireland to have a league table that measures how safe and happy our young people are in school, whether they have access to a well-being programme, whether students are encouraged to look outside of their own worlds to advocate for those less fortunate, or whether there is an extracurricular programme that helps all of the students thrive and flourish, no-matter what their academic ability, for example.

There is abundant evidence that the more equal societies are, the better they are in terms of core social indicators such as health, employability, capacity for income generation, crime rate, civic involvement, or gender equality. We should be aiming for equality in our schools, as foundations for our society.

Therefore, while it is tempting to click-through to see how “we” did, at Edmund Rice Schools we also believe that there is something regressive and divisive about such a high profile measure that – inadvertently or otherwise – pits one school against another, that essentially measures socioeconomic status and inequality, and that can contribute to the denigration, stigmatisation, and even the demise of schools that are doing a fantastic job, often against huge odds. – Yours, etc,

GERRY BENNETT,

Chief Executive,

The Edmund Rice

Schools Trust,

Áras Éamainn Rís,

Meadow Vale,

Clonkeen Road,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.