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Heads attack new set of secondary targets

All secondaries will be expected to ensure at least half of 14-year-olds get the expected score in English, maths and science tests by 2008, the Government said this week.

Ministers also extended targets to raise achievement at 19, improve school attendance and increase young people's physical activity. These were part of the so-called "public-service agreement" between the Treasury and the Department for Education and Skills published alongside the Government's spending review.

The new target for 14-year-olds replaces an earlier one of significantly reducing the number of schools where less than 60 per cent get the expected level.

The Government's promise to cut truancy by 10 per cent between 2002 and 2004 is superseded by a pledge to reduce absence by 8 per cent between 2003 and 2008.

The target of ensuring three-quarters of pupils do at least two hours of PE or sport each week by 2006 has been retained. But ministers responded to rising concern about obesity by adding a higher goal of 85 per cent by 2008.

A new target of 60 per cent of 15-year-olds getting five Cs or better at GCSE by 2008 replaces a goal of raising the proportion by two percentage points each year.

Last month The TES revealed that the Government will miss more than half of its school targets set in previous spending reviews.

Heads attacked the changes. "The message from the five-year strategy was that secondary-school targets should be bottom-up not top-down but the message does not appear to have got through to 11 Downing Street," said John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association.

In a separate 10-year plan, ministers this week pledged improvements in science teaching. They want a "step change" in GCSE and A-level results and the numbers studying the subject at university. They also pledged to tackle teacher shortages. From September 2005 the Government will:

* raise bursaries for postgraduate trainee science teachers from pound;6,000 to pound;7,000;

* raise "golden hellos" from pound;4,000 to pound;5,000;

* increase minimum pay for advanced skills science teachers from pound;30,501 to pound;40,000; and scrap the pound;48,657 cap on their salaries;

* double the number of scientists on graduate teacher programmes;

* give every secondary science teacher a higher-level specialist science assistant by 2007.

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