Shoot-out over targets leaves one casualty

27th June 2003 at 01:00
It's like a scene out of an old western movie. The LEA bandits ride into town, armed to the teeth with crazy targets that seem to have been plucked out of the desert air. We stand firm, ready for the impending gunfight.

They fire the first shot. As we run for cover, we reach into our holsters and produce our own realistic targets based on prior attainment. But their second wave attack is too strong. They sideline our targets as being too low. We haven't anticipated such superior tactics. Our weapons of common sense, logic and reason are no match for their jobsworth's arsenal of arrogance and intimidation.

That more than 90 per cent of our kids speak English as a second language, and that many have been here only a few years, having escaped the ravages of war in their own countries, are dismissed as excuses for failure. And last year's budget cut is yesterday's news.

Our orders are to do whatever we have to do to get our pupils through those tests and meet our quota of level 4s. And just to increase the pressure, they remind us that our pupils' results will be published in a league table for all to see and make judgments about how good (or bad) we are.

So, we press ahead and redesign our curriculum and teaching methods. We vastly increase the scientific knowledge base of our children as a significant number have missed out on much of the spiral topic work covered in Years 3 and 4.

We work hard on basic skills in maths and English. Our English lessons include plenty of drama and speaking and listening, and whole-class writing with an emphasis on discussion and modelling. Our maths lessons are loosely based on the Department for Education and Skills's numeracy pilot lesson plans, which seem to be geared towards answering Sats-type questions.

It works. Our Panda scores show that we are an A* school. Those bandits must be pleased with us now, we think. Then, suddenly, just when we think we are safe, the bandits appear on the horizon, silhouetted against the sun. We await their praise. Instead, they criticise our teaching methods and tell us we are not to teach to the tests (we are only following advice given by their advisory teachers on numerous Inset courses). Neither are we to help children revise as this might "skew" the outcome of the tests. So we had better not teach them at all, I reason, as that tends to affect exam results too.

To top it all, we receive formal notification from the bandits' inspection militia that we are to be inspected - during Sats week. Despite promises that the inspection should in no way affect or impede the children's exam performance, the pressure on teachers during the revision period - particularly during the week itself - is bound to affect the quality of learning. Only a fool would argue otherwise.

Oh, and it is nice to meet our registered bandit, who stresses that Sats results aren't everything, and implies that they are not that important. It also appears that he would have us teach more investigative skills rather than work towards getting the pupils higher scores. Maybe he should talk more to his leaders.

He seems to agree with our local link bandit that we should not prepare the children "to the best of our abilities", and queries our revision strategy because it might affect the outcome of the assessments. All this, having just received a letter from one of their ministerial leaders telling us we have to do even more to get our pupils through their tests.

What do they want? If they could tell us, it might be possible to do the job. But they can't. It's not worth it any more. That's why I resigned at Easter.

The writer, who wishes to remain anonymous, teaches in a primary school in north London

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