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Hate targets? So does Ofsted

Unreachable test goals make teachers cynical and defeatist, says thechief inspector. Michael Shaw reports.

NATIONAL targets for school improvement are making teachers feel threatened and defeatist, chief inspector David Bell warns in today's TES.

The head of the Office for Standards in Education urges ministers to look beyond national test performance and take account of what teachers say about pupils.

In the York annual lecture he also says that targets are increasingly counter-productive. His inspectors found schools that focused excessively on targets were damaging pupils' achievements by narrowing the curriculum.

"They find teachers, heads and local authorities for whom targets are now operating more as a threat than a motivator, more as stick than carrot," he said. "Moreover, the harder the targets become, the more tempting it is to treat them with cynicism or defeatism."

Mr Bell says it was originally right to set ambitious targets for 11 and 16-year-olds, and does not want to scrap targets altogether.

However, he says that the Government would get a more realistic picture of schools' short and medium-term progress by listening to teachers, and examining the methods they used to raise attainment.

The chief inspector adds that he is "anything but" a government poodle, and that initiatives from the Department for Education and Skills need to be balanced with the views of professionals who acted in the interest of pupils.

The attack comes a week after The TES revealed that Mr Bell and other key Ofsted officials had been urging education ministers to drop primary targets for next year, warning they were counter-productive.

Primary schools have been set the tough target of seeing 85 per cent of 11-year-olds achieve level 4 or above in national English and maths tests in 2004.

The proportion receiving good passes in both subjects has remained stubbornly stuck at around 75 per cent for three years.

* The National Association of Head Teachers wants ministers to make radical changes to league tables and cut "demotivating" primary testing and targets.

Figures produced by the union showed 22 of England's 150 authorities needed to improve by 25 percentage points or more, figures which the NAHT said were "excessive, if not impossible".

David Bell, 21

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