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Take your time to meet our targets

Be patient and the Government's key stage 3 strategy will work, says its new national director. Julie Henry reports

AS a mother of two children still at secondary school, Sue Hackman, the new national director of the key stage 3 strategy, believes the Government targets for 14-year-olds are "a reasonable thing to ask".

Results this year were unimpressive. Two-thirds of 14-year-olds reached level 5 in maths and English and 67 per cent in science. Perhaps most worrying was the similar rate of progress, about 1 per cent, made in the 2005 pilot schools which have been using the new English and maths frameworks for more than two years.

Miss Hackman, who has been acting director since the retirement of Anita Straker last autumn, said she expected results to rise this year, but the real test of the strategy would be 2004.

By then, 75 per cent of pupils are expected to get level 5 in English and maths and 70 per cent in science.

To be fair, it is early days. Schools only adopted structured lessons and fresh teaching in English and maths in September 2001. Science, information technology and foundation subject strands then followed.

Ms Hackman has recognised the wisdom of allowing teachers to turn these plans into action.

"Rather than carry on pumping out new ideas, schools need time to embed the strategy. There will be a greater emphasis on encouraging schools to develop and a recognition that it is better for them to do a few things well," she said.

There will also be a change of emphasis from individual subject departments to whole-school involvement. For instance, literacy will be expected to be taught across the curriculum, not just in English. Schools will also be encouraged to take what was a top-down, imposed strategy and tailor it to their own local needs.

Part of this new emphasis is a behaviour drive, outlined in last week's TES. Consultants will be appointed this year to go into schools and help teachers tackle unruly pupils.

Ms Hackman said: "The most support will go to those schools where behaviour is already an issue. Having said that, it is a very lucky teacher who experiences no challenging moments with pupils.

"Behaviour is closely tied in with how you run your classroom. We want to look at which classes encourage best behaviour."

Ms Hackman was one of the regional directors of the Government's strategy to overhaul primary literacy at a time when test results were going up. In 2000, she joined the KS3 strategy as national director of the English strand.

She is a former teacher and has published more than 35 literacy books. Her public speaking combines the down-to-earth with the inspirational. She once told an audience of teachers to stop wasting hours in the evening filling out marking sheets.

One English teaching expert described the 49-year-old Ms Hackman as "very efficient" but "brisk".

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