Where's trust with tracking?

6th June 2003 at 01:00
THE latest raft of missives from the Department for Education and Skills shows that, however much it wants to, the Government just cannot bring itself to trust teachers.

The fine words of the national primary strategy, published last month, called for more creativity and freedom, a broader curriculum and a greater focus on the individual child, whether they are a borderline level 4 or not. But no one is allowed to feel good about the decision to build key stage 2 targets from the child up, rather than ministers down, for too long. This week's letter to chief education officers essentially tells local education authorities to keep up the pressure (page 9). Each Year 6 cohort is expected to show greater improvement than the previous group. In fact, once every school has an ostensibly meetable target, the pressure could become worse.

Meanwhile, Charles Clarke has unveiled an exciting new product. "Our new Pupil Achievement Tracker", he says, "means that teachers will have information at their fingertips to analyse past and current attainment so that they can tailor lessons and progression to each pupil's needs" (page 1). This interactive database will enable teachers and parents, "at the click of a mouse", to compare individual children's performance with that of their peers, by sex, socio-economic group, and other categories. So now that we know that more and more measurement will make children grow bigger and smarter, how will this help to bring about the broader curriculum that everyone knows is the real key to raising attainment - and enjoyment - year on year?

At a time when a new survey for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority adds to the evidence that subjects such as music and PE are being squeezed in primary schools (page 9), this is an important question. But the answer, as ever, lies with schools, which are demonstrating an increasing will to do what they believe is best for their pupils, even in the face of government double-speak.

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