Too many targets spoil chances of inner-city pupils, say Tories

A FUTURE Conservative government would reduce the number of targets schools were expected to meet, shadow education secretary Damian Green told The TES this week.

Speaking before the launch of the Conservatives' policy pamphlet, The Children Left Behind, Mr Green said many targets created more problems than they solved. "Targets distort behaviour. Even if you hit the targets you find they have caused problems elsewhere."

He said the Government's concentration on increasing the number of pupils gaining at least five A*-C grades at GCSE had damaged the prospects of low-achievers, particularly those in the inner cities.

In 2001, more than 30,000 children left school without a single GCSE, a reduction on the previous year. The number of children leaving school with no GCSEs rose in the inner cities, however, and in some authorities, for example Manchester, the figure nearly doubled, according to the pamphlet.

The Conservatives believe that they can make headway against Labour by attacking their record on education in the inner cities.

They say that a breakdown of discipline, teacher recruitment problems, a lack of freedom for schools and low expectations of pupils are defeating efforts to raise standards.

A second pamphlet expected before the Conservatives' party conference in October will set out details of their plans to tackle the problem.

These will include giving headteachers greater autonomy, allowing schools to make home-school contracts compulsory and abolishing exclusions appeals panels.

The plans were rejected as "unworkable" by John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association.

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