The thing with school league tables is that no matter how unfair, counter-productive and downright reactionary you think they are, you still immediately look up where your kids' school ranked. So today's news is ... My kids go to Brook Community Primary School, the fifth worst primary school in the whole of London, the fourth worst in Hackney. It's a good job I do think that league tables are unfair, counter-productive and downright reactionary, otherwise I could feel quite demoralised.
Yes, I like to know how good my kids' school is - but I'm not really bothered about how good it is compared with other schools. Education is not a competitive sport - league tables are for football not for primary schools. Brook could have got better but slipped down the table overtaken by others, or got worse but gone up the table as others got worse still. Surely the former is preferable?
But league tables don't even tell you how good schools are. They tell you the exam results of their eleven-year-olds. Nothing about the kids in other years, or about non-examined subjects, or about the pupils' social development or happiness. Heaven forbid.
Guess what? Schools in posh areas do best. The government's answer? How about giving schools in working-class, multi-ethnic areas the resources they need for smaller classes, more computers, English-as-a-second-language support, and other support services? Nah - how about we just shame them through league tables instead?!
And faith schools do "best" too, prompting crowing from religious bodies. Hey, maybe that's because they are funded by the church as well as by the state. Or maybe they have a disciplinarian ethos that delivers good exam results but hurts children in other ways.
The league tables themselves could prove counter-productive. Better-off families who can afford books, extra tuition and separate bedrooms for their kids could opt to drive their children to "better-performing" schools, leaving behind the local, "poorly-performing" school to do their best to educate kids whose families are no so well-equipped to get them through their exams. Teachers and other education staff may want to transfer to the "better" schools for a less stressful working life (though full marks to those who show the commitment to work in the most needy schools), meaning that the lower-ranked schools have a higher turnover of staff and thus find it even harder to raise their standards.
Brook is not perfect. But it has been steadily improving, and everyone - staff, kids, parents - tries really hard. Even OFSTED says so. So we don't need a kick in the teeth in the shape of a relegation-zone league table placing.