DESPAIRING primary school headteachers around Craven have branded the Government's "league tables" unfair.

The controversial tables show how 11-year-olds perform in English, maths and science.

Scores are given for the percentage of children who achieve level four or above in each subject.

But even teachers from schools at the top of the list feel such scores do not represent the true ability of individuals, or the relative improvements they have made.

Cononley County Primary came top of Craven's performance table of national curriculum tests.

Achieving a marked increase on the first results released last year, 100 per cent of pupils taking the maths and science tests attained level four, with 92 per cent doing the same in English.

But headmaster John Brown is unwilling to take any glory away from schools lower down the table, which may have come along in leaps and bounds relative to the position they held last year.

Mr Brown said: "Everyone works equally hard in education and the results are just a snapshot of a full year, aren't they?

"We are very close to other schools in the area and know what good work they all do."

Another school which made a significant improvement on last year, especially in science and maths, was Greatwood County Primary in Skipton.

Headteacher John Collings is frustrated that his school has to linger near the bottom of the table despite the hard efforts of the majority of his pupils.

John said he even feels sorry for those schools who last year achieved near-perfect marks, as any decrease the following year is bound to be frowned upon.

He said: "We are all in the same race but we are not all starting from the same place.

"These figures tell a story but not THE story. There is no indication of the effort, time and energy put into the children who might never achieve the 80, 90 or 100 per cents.

"What the teachers here do for the kids is not measurable. I cannot believe that my staff are suddenly any better or worse than the year before."

Perhaps no-one is more annoyed with the tables than the head of Ings County Primary and Nursery School in Skipton, which came out bottom of the Craven list and 168th in North Yorkshire.

Helen Sturges is proud of her pupils' achievements and invites any parents thinking of sending their children there to go and find out for themselves rather than study a table of figures.

Mrs Sturges said: "The performance tables show the level of attainment reached at the end of Year 6 at age 11. This only gives a small part of the picture, here based on a sample of just 13 pupils, with regards to the quality of education provided.

"As yet no information is published on the attainment reached prior to school entry which would, I feel, provide a clearer picture on the knowledge, skills and understanding acquired whilst at primary school.

"There are several additional projects under way at Ings School which are already producing improvements in the levels of attainment throughout the school.

"Any parent who is beginning to think about their child's primary education is more than welcome to visit our school to see the quality and variety of work taking place across all aspects of the curriculum."

Figures for North Yorkshire County Council schools show that pupils attained results well above the national average.

In the 1997 English test, 72.3 per cent of North Yorkshire pupils reached level four, where the national figure is 61.2 per cent.

In maths 71.3 per cent achieved level four compared to 61.2 per cent nationally.

Arncliffe; Beamsley, Boyle and Petyt; Burnsall; Cracoe and Rylstone; Kettlewell; Kirkby Malhamdale and Sutton Church schools have less than 10 eligible pupils so their results are not published. North Craven primary schools are not listed as pupils go on to Settle or Ingleton Middle Schools before they are 11.

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