Target slackers still unnamed

22nd October 1999 at 01:00
Selection shake-up costs 'idealised'

LOCAL COUNCILS are ignoring a Government order to identify schools which are not setting sufficiently ambitious national test result targets for themselves, writes Frances Rafferty.

A survey by the National Union of Teachers shows that most of the 35 local authorities who responded believed it would undermine their working relationships if they picked out schools in this way.

Councils were assigned overall maths and English targets by the Department for Education and Employment and then told to liaise with individual schools. Government officials said schools not setting sufficiently challenging targets must be identified to the department by marking them with "Code Y" in their education development plan. But this was opposed by the NUT.

In a letter to chief education officers, Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "I am writing to ask that your LEA does not comply with the ministers' request that you identify with code Y those schools which have a more than 3 per cent mismatch between their targets and those set for them by LEAs... Any mismatch is a matter for LEAs and schools themselves."

Twenty LEAs told the NUT they have not used code Y - five said it was unacceptable "naming and shaming". The NUT said: "The vast majority of LEAs (who replied) made it clear they wanted to develop professional and positive relationships with schools and did not want to adopt practices which would undermine those relationships."

Only one council said it had used the code and would continue to do so.

The NUT report said: "There was no impression within the responses that LEAs wished to be soft either in their approach to target-setting or in their dealings with schools.

"While many LEAs acknowledged that setting targets - both legally and as a matter of policy - was the responsibility of

governing bodies, they

frequently also referred to the importance of targets being challenging."

KENT County Council has dropped its claim that abolishing grammar schools in the county could cost pound;150 million - a key argument in its battle to retain the selective system.

Nick Henwood, the director of education,admits that the amount referred to "the concept of an idealised model of comprehensive education".

And the Department for Education and Employment has said that any material on the grammar issue should not use this figure.

The campaign to abolish selection in the county - Stop the Eleven-Plus - received another boost this week when heads from the non-selective schools in the county urged parents to trigger a ballot to end grammars. A vote can only be held if 20 per cent of eligible parents petition for a ballot.

The opposing sides of the argument have both stepped up activity. A leaflet prepared by Kent Conservatives claimed a massive reorganisation would cause chaos for pupils and would lead to admissions based on postcode. Eric Hammond, former leader of the electricians' union EPTU, is backing their claims in his organisation Save Kent Schools.

Kent's education committee this week recommended changes to its admission procedure to grammars, following criticism from the Office for Standards in Education that it was inconsistent and unfair. An 11-plus test and recommendations by primary headteachers have been used. This led to a third of cases being referred to local admissions panels. The council now plans to drop the headteacher recommendation and rely on a pass or fail of the test.

Becky Matthews, from STEP, said: "There is no satisfactory way of dividing children at the age of 10. They are just going back to when a child will pass or fail on the day. Why don't they do what the majority of schools in Britain do and have a non-selective system?"

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