MINISTERS RATCHETED up the pressure on teachers to improve standards this week with a set of tough new national targets.
Schools will still be expected to ensure that as many pupils as possible reach certain thresholds, such as achieving five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths. But, as The TES revealed last month, new targets will also attempt to hold them accountable for the progress made by pupils at all levels.
And schools will be expected to narrow "significantly" the large achievement gap for pupils eligible for free school meals at the end of both primary and secondary schools by 2011.
Union leaders reacted angrily to the new regime, which sets the goals Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, expects to achieve as a result of raising education spending in England by an annual 2.8 per cent above inflation between 2008 11.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "While I accept the need to narrow the gap in attainment, schools already face an unacceptably large number of targets. School leaders want to know which targets are disappearing to make way for the new ones."
Technically, some headline targets have disappeared, such as individual goals for English and maths test results. But as both these subjects are included in new combined targets at key stages two and three, the change is unlikely to relieve the pressure on schools.
Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We are also unhappy about adding more targets for schools to meet they will not solve our education problems."
Mr Darling also announced an extra pound;200 million to modernise primary buildings and an additional pound;250 million spread over three years to ensure all children are "able to benefit from truly personalised services".
It is expected that this money will be used to fund the children's plan that ministers are consulting on.
The comprehensive spending review deal for education marks a considerable slowdown in the rate of increase, which since 1999 has averaged about 5.3 per cent.
The education increase also remains below that of health. But it will have increased as a proportion of GDP to 5.6 per cent by 2010, compared with 4.7 per cent in 1997.