Spectre of league tables for 14-year-olds

21st July 2000 at 01:00
Unions fear a string of challenging new targets for schools makes more naming and shaming inevitable, reports Sarah Cassidy.

TEACHERS' leaders have condemned the tough new targets facing schools and local authorities, fearing that they will pave the way for more league tables.

At key stage 3, 85 per cent of pupils will have to reach the target level in English and maths and 80 per cent in science by 2007. But there is a long way to go: in 1999 only 64 per cent reached the required level in English and 62 per cent in maths.

Unions fear the Government will be unable to resist publishing details of schools' performance against these targets. They think league tables of key stage 3 results are now inevitable, despite government claims that there are no plans to publish them.

New national tests for computer skills will also be developed for 14-year-olds and will be the basis for challenging targets for 2007.

At GCSE, every local authority will have to ensure that at least 38 per cent of its pupils achieve five good passes by 2004. Last year almost a third of English authorities fell below this level, mainly in inner London, Yorkshire, and the North-west.

And the percenage of pupils gaining five good GCSE passes must increase by four points between 2002 and 2004. The current target demands that 50 per cent achieve this level by 2002.

Gordon Brown this week confirmed that new targets for primaries are to be set, with the demand that 11-year-olds improve beyond the 80 per cent literacy and 75 numeracy targets for 2002.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"Government targets seem to drop out of the air and be uninformed by research or discussion within the profession."

Eamonn O'Kane, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The Treasury seems to think that you can't spend money unless you can directly measure its effect. Ministers have to accept that sometimes expenditure is needed for things that can't be measured."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said: "I think we have enough targets already. New secondary targets are a distraction from schools' main task of raising achievement. The new GCSE targets for authorities in difficult areas will only put on pressure when what they need is support."

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