How head hit bullseye

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Mossley primary has had a fantastic three years.

In December 2002, the school in Walsall was rated as failing. This week, it was one of nine hugely improved schools invited by Ofsted to hold regional photocalls to mark the annual report.

Standards have risen so far that when inspectors visited last autumn more than half of lessons were judged "very good" or better and 89 per cent were better than satisfactory.

But Earl Richards, who became head in October 2001, does not believe his school is doing much different to everyone else. He said: "We have a keep-it-simple philosophy. It is all about improving teaching and learning."

One way the school does that is by regularly assessing pupils' progress and setting them individual targets.

Mr Richards said: "We live in a target-driven culture. We set individual targets. This may have early-years practitioners pulling their hair out but learning needs to be focused.

"I don't think you can say children under a certain age do not understand targets. It is about how you sell them to them. Anything else is just lowering expectations."

To this end, the school has a six-foot-high target painted on a classroom wall and each week pupils get awards if they hit certain goals.

Mr Richards even has a dartboard in his office, which he uses to explain the school's target-setting culture to pupils. But it also has another purpose. He said: "When we are about to be inspected I throw three darts.

If one hits the bullseye we are doing well. If I miss we are going to be in trouble."

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