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Targets take to the water

BEING A fairy in Midsummer Night's Dream, a pair of hands in a clean-up project or a paddler on a team-built raft could become part of North Lanarkshire's campaign to lift pupil achievement.

Courses on learning to be a parent that will find favour with Government ministers are likely to be offered to secondary pupils. Helen Liddell, the Education Minister, is a leading local MP.

North Lanarkshire says in criticising the Scottish Office approach on target-setting that a narrow focus on academic ability and examination grades misses many areas where pupils flourish. The Government has only concentrated on aspects of achievement "which are readily measured in quantitative terms, and which could be described as academic in nature", the council says.

It argues that self-esteem, motivation, determination, stickability and high aspirations are more likely to be associated with success than grades or passes.

"Many individuals who apparently failed at school go on to have considerable success in later life. The notion that cognitive attainment is the best predictor of future success, and that therefore academic learning is more important than any other, has been challenged by the concept of emotional intelligence," it insists.

The area is the second most deprived in Scotland and this week backed a plan to define achievement more broadly. It has borrowed the approach pioneered by Birmingham and is to offer all pupils a series of "experiential" or "input" targets.

In primary, every child will have the chance to work on an environmental project and take part in a pupil council, a public performance and a residential experience or school trip. Other entitlements include a 10-week block of swimming lessons in senior school.

Secondary pupils can join a community environmental project or enterprise, arts and sports projects and outdoor education courses. Every student will have a personal development programme and from the fourth year one-to-one interviews will help set targets for each session.

Work experience, careers education and visits to colleges and universities are to be built in, along with courses on parenting.

The council is developing "output" targets on improving reading and mathematics in primary and wants a 10 per cent increase in parental involvement.

In secondary, schools are urged to drive up the numbers achieving improved passes, as well as improving attendance, self-esteem and the percentages going on to further and higher education.

North Lanarkshire says in its policy paper, Raising Achievement for All, that "experiential" opportunities should be seen as "integral rather than peripheral to a balanced education".

A central tenet of the proposed "outcome" targets is that ability is "multifaceted and that aspects of personal development often correlate more significantly with achievement in later life than do paper qualifications".

The council adds: "There is a clear need to develop more flexible, imaginative and accurate ways of measuring individual and group achievement."

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