Heads hit out at primary targets

14th February 2003 at 00:00
Government accused of piling too much pressure on teachers to raise test scores. Helen Ward reports.

ANGER over pressure on schools to hit targets for 11-year-olds has erupted as the Government published a list of revision topics to boost results in this year's tests.

Professor Ted Wragg of Exeter University accused ministers of intimidating teachers by asking local education authorities to identify by name all underperforming Year 6 children.

And heads at a government conference on a new strategy for primaries told Education Secretary Charles Clarke to concentrate more on improving education and less on better results.

Officials from the Government's standards and effectiveness unit have told literacy and numeracy strategy regional directors to ask LEAs whether they know the names of all children who could achieve level 4 or 5 "with support". Chief education officers have been sent the same question.

In his TES column, Professor Wragg accuses ministers of being so desperate to hit targets that they are resorting to "crass authoritarianism".

However, Andrew Seber, president of the education officers' body Confed and county education officer for Hampshire, said he had no problem with the idea that LEA advisers should be thinking about individual pupils rather than schools. Hampshire was not taking a register of names.

At a heads' conference Mr Clarke defended his plans to boost results:

"Complacency is not an option. We would fail in our duty if we did not build on past success."

There will be 1,020 Easter schools this year, each with at least 25 children. Easter school organisers can select from 21 maths topics, such as ordering decimals, and 11 English topics including punctuation.

Each school is expected to last four half-days and include four literacy and four maths lessons, each covering the equivalent of at least an hour.

The conference was one of a series of eight being held to discuss the forthcoming primary strategy with headteachers.

Nansi Ellis, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' primary education adviser, said: "It is not a strategy being genuinely developed with the teaching profession, but something imposed from above.

"The conference was not about developing primary education - it was about raising test scores."

Angeles Walford, head of the Priory Church of England school, Merton, and chair of the National Association of Head Teachers primary committee, said:

"Teachers will hear this and just walk. I am not going to put my teachers under pressure.

"We have French in this school, we have curriculum enrichment, but my school will never be at the top of the league table because of our intake."

The primary strategy, due to be launched in September, has been set up after the Government failed to meet its 2002 targets for 11-year-olds.

Primary Forum, 19Ted Wragg, back page

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