THIS week should have been league tables week.

I say "should have" because ordinarily a range of newspapers, including this one, would throw a merry band of journalists into creating tables ranking schools on the percentage of pupils who gain a certain number of Highers.

It seems that only the Times in Scotland took up the challenge this year and the response on social media was not warm.

Full disclosure: I've drawn up league tables every year for about 15 years, first for the Scottish Daily Mail and then for The Herald and its sister title the Glasgow Times.

They're an extremely time consuming endeavour, usually requiring a team of people to pull them together, because the data is not laid out like riches by the Scottish Government.

You have to go mining for it. For every school in every local authority area across Scotland. It's the worst day of the year.

Yet the league tables are astonishingly well read. Parents love them. I wonder how they use them. I find it hard to believe that parents make a choice of school based on the league tables, given the tiny fluctuations between those at the top, and given the logistics involved in securing a placement.

It seems entirely to be for bragging rights as much as anything. But boasting about "good schools" is the most base endeavour, along with taking pride in your school's place on the list.

Schools that top the league table have low levels of deprivation. The have high levels of children with middle class, engaged parents; private tutors; their young people are less likely to face the barrage of challenges that confront teenagers in the schools at the other end of the table.

It's gauche, taking delight in your school's place in the charts. It's a front for boasting about your own material success in life. Well done.

Even with a significant amount of contextual padding round the sides, ranking schools from "best to worst" is nothing but an insult to the majority of schools there - and it tells you very little of value.

The phrase "good school" should come with a mandatory prison term for anyone who utters it sincerely.

Let's not even get in to the complex issue of using five plus awards at SCQF Level 6. All Highers are at SCQF Level 6, but not all qualifications at that level are Highers so the league tables become squiffier still.

This year, for the Glasgow Times, we didn't produce league tables. We took the same decision last year too. Firstly, during the pandemic, it would have been a particularly slight to rank schools on such a narrow measure when they were adapting to extreme circumstances.

Now, a year on, given everything schools, teachers and pupils have endured over the past 12 months, it would feel like a sucker punch.

That's not to say the performance of schools shouldn't be rigorously examined by journalists and failures highlighted. That's not what league tables are for, though.

They exist for the gratification of middle class parents and as an affront to everyone else.

Recently I wrote about Lochend Community High School in the east end of Glasgow.

Lochend is ordinarily at the bottom of the league table, three Highers or five Highers, it makes no odds. In this week's tables it sits in the "worst" five schools.

This year, though, the school has become the first in Scotland to have every pupil move on to a positive leaver destination. That's 100 per cent of them.

By that metric, its head teacher told me, Lochend should be the best school in the country. One of those positive leaver destinations is that of 17-year-old Rachel Macrae.

She's the first in her school to gain 10 Highers and the first to gain a place at an American university. She wants to study forensic science and perhaps join the FBI.

Like Rachel, my ambition at school was the join the FBI but it was a dream developed due to an obsession with The X Files rather than anything based on wit, endeavour or talent.

Rachel, who has all three, has future success hinging on whether she finds enough funding to help her pay for her tuition fees and living expenses. Perhaps if she went to a school at the top of the league tables she wouldn't have to have launched a Crowdfunder and be reliant on the kindness of strangers to fulfill her dream.

On the issue of positive leaver destinations, another head teacher I spoke to said his school would have hit 100 per cent also, but one of the pupils, they felt, could move on to something better than what he had chosen.

So, instead of pushing him one way in order to hit that magical round number, the school let itself come second in order to put its pupil first.

That's the mantra of teachers up and down the country though, isn't it? Putting themselves second in order to ensure their pupils come first.

What a slap in the face these league tables must be, particularly now.

Schools have been feeding pupils, providing care for them, going above and beyond every week. They've been trying to navigate the vagaries of the SQA's exams balls up last year and the opaque exams-that-aren't-exams system this year. And on and on.

You can't fit any of these things easily into raw data, they don't slide well into columns on a table.

Five plus Highers is such an outdated measure of achievement. Absolutely, pupils who work hard and earn their qualifications should be proud. Those who choose to take a different path, into an apprenticeship or work or college are no less successful than their peers who go to university.

There's a strong case to be made that positive leaver destinations are the more insightful metric, not that I'm suggesting an alternative table.

Who benefits from the rankings? No one. Who is harmed by them? Teachers and pupils.

Next year how about they quietly die a death, a relic from less enlightened times.