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Say 'no' to targets

As a poll shows heads think the goals are impossible, a TES campaign calls for them to be ignored. Helen Ward reports.

ONLY one in 10 primary headteachers in England believes the Government's 2004 national targets for 11-year-olds can be met, a TES poll reveals today.

The result shows a massive vote of no confidence in Tony Blair's policy of using targets to lever up school standards.

The TES poll of 400 heads in England found almost four out of five felt the targets - which demand that 85 per cent of 11-year-olds score level 4 in English and maths - should be abandoned.

The pressure to boost results is taking its toll, the survey suggests, with almost every primary head in England and Wales now struggling to offer a broad and balanced curriculum. Nearly 90 per cent of heads say creativity in the classroom is being stifled.

Schools failed to meet Government targets for English and maths last year.

In 2002, 75 per cent of 11-year-olds left primary school with level 4 in English, five percentage points short of the target. In maths, 73 per cent achieved this standard, a two percentage-point shortfall .

More than three-quarters of heads believe that, while the targets may have led to better test scores, they have not brought real improvements in learning. They have sidelined the arts, humanities and sport. More than half say too little time is devoted to art, design and technology and music.

The National Association of Head Teachers will be debating six motions on primary tests, targets and tables at its conference in York this weekend.Ian Bruce, head of Rosemellin community primary in Camborne, Cornwall, will speak on the "sterile content" of the primary curriculum.

He said: "The Government should pull back on worrying about test results.

They are not a measure of improvement. Improvement is about what happens to every child in the school."

Just six of the 400 English heads polled felt they gave every subject the right amount of time. The situation in Wales is similar, although not as pronounced.

Of 100 Welsh heads, just four were happy with their timetable.

Three-quarters said they would broaden the curriculum if targets were abandoned.

Stephen Twigg, schools minister, is expected to reconfirm the Government's commitment to the 2004 targets at the NAHT conference this weekend. He told The TES: "Yes, our targets are challenging, but we believe they are achievable."

Kevan Collins, director of the national primary strategy, said under the new strategy due to be announced later this month, the emphasis will be on ensuring that schools with similar intakes are progressing at the same rate.

Survey, 6, Primary campaign, 20

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