What the teachers say

30th January 1998 at 00:00
Elaine Hicks is headteacher of Bannerman Road primary, a 240-place school in inner-city Bristol. A quarter of her pupils have special educational needs.

She says: "I still have doubts about the whole idea of primary league tables because I don't think this sort of competition is the way to raise standards.

"My main grouse is that out of our class of 32 doing the tests last year, six of the children had only arrived in the September. Yet they were all included in the statistics. The league tables are supposed to represent the effectiveness of our school, but they don't take account of the fact that children may have just joined."

Yvonne Craig, is a teacher at Jericho primary, a 262-pupil school in Whitehaven, Cumbria. She says: "I don't feel the league tables give a true reflection because they are baseline tests.

"They look at whether a child gets a certain mark or not, rather than how that child has come on. They can be soul-destroying if a child is deemed to be below average when he or she is working really hard and taking extra lessons or doing extra homework.

"The only positive thing I can say is that the tests get children used to taking that sort of national test at an early age, while sitting down, completely silent."

David Fox is deputy head of the junior school at Marlborough Road primary, in Salford.

"I am not against the tests themselves, because they at least give us an indication of performance and give us targets to reach. But they are relatively crude.

"After four or five years they will give us a better indication, but just comparing last year with this year is comparing two completely different sets of children. Better results this year could mean improved standards, or they could be more to do with the composition of the class.

"You can't easily compare one school with another either, because you need to look at the catchment area. You can only compare a school with another just up the street because it would have a similar environment. Then you can ask what they are doing to get better results."

Michael Waine is head of Glory Farm, a 500-place primary school in Bicester, Oxfordshire. A quarter of his pupils have special educational needs.

"Some children coming into our school are able to read and recognise colours, they can use scissors and write their name, and they can ask questions and socialise with other children. Others are able to do only a few - or even none - of those things.

"What is also worrying is the suggestion that more or less every Year 6 child is capable of achieving level 4 at maths and English. That pushes aside the starting point of the child, and also the succour given to them at home. Some parents are far more supportive to their children than others and schools can't do it alone."

Rob Merrick

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