Targets will not make giants of us

25th April 2003 at 01:00
PHILIP Adey writes (TES, April 11) about the improved performances in maths, English and science in key stage 2 tests from 1996 to 2002, and points out that science now has a higher percentage reaching level 4 than do maths and English. One reason for this could be lower initial levels set for science in 1996 andor a greater improvement in science teaching since then.

Expertise in English and maths has been expected from every trained primary teacher for many years, and by the year 2000 they had become skilled at drawing out from the variability of each pupil cohort almost the maximum ceilings of performance levels. The literacy and numeracy strategies will have aided this.

However, Government targets still treat groups of children as if they were on a factory production line! To do so implies ignorance of both human variability and of statistics.

Improved nutritional levels since the end of the Second World War have indeed increased the average height of children. This increase has naturally levelled out. It has not resulted in 90 per cent of children reaching 6ft tall by the end of KS4!

As a governor of an inner-city primary I urge the Department for Education and Skills and the Office for Standards in Education to stop chasing after unscientific and unrealistic targets; to praise schools and pupils for their excellent work and to stop blaming them for falling short of unrealistic targets that require continued year on year improvements.

Surely the targets and the tests are designed to help pupils and not to enable ministers to pat their own backs?

Margaret Ogden Retired science and special needs teacher 21 Shirlock Road Hampstead, London NW3

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