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Test bar to be set still higher

Schools are to be asked to raise their game on test and exam results as ministers seek to achieve a string of targets, which even they admit they are struggling to reach.

The primary and secondary national strategies have set out a vision which they say will transform teaching, so that "current rates of progress are exceeded for all children and young people".

But teachers' unions say it is unrealistic to expect continuous, uniform improvement from all schools.

The pledge was unveiled in the strategies' draft five-year strategic plan, released with little publicity to unions before Christmas. The strategies were taken over last year by private services firm Capita.

The plan sets out schools' progress against six government targets, covering the next two years: key stage 2 English and maths, KS3 English, maths and science, and overall GCSE results.

In all but one of these categories, the GCSE results, the scores are not improving at a fast enough rate to achieve the ministerial goals. The document says the strategies therefore have to work with teachers to accelerate progress.

The key aim, it said, was "raising the bar of expectation so that current rates of progress are exceeded for all children and young people".

The document says this will be achieved through supporting staff. It promises to improve the training for teachers, in part by placing more emphasis on web-based resources.

The strategies will also work with local authorities to ensure they are "challenging" underperforming schools to improve.

The National Union of Teachers has said: "The emphasis on raising standards... is predicated on the belief that rates of improvement will rise year on year for ever."

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that all schools wanted to raise results. However, targets, and the data ministers now had on individual pupils, were being used as a "big stick" with which to punish schools with low scores.

Mark Pattison, director of the strategies, said it was right that there were high expectations of pupils. "I do not think we are anywhere near realising the full potential of all young people," he said.

Pattison profile 14

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