Teachers slam new targets for primary schools

MORE than one in six primary schools in Yorkshire could be branded as failing under a new Government crackdown aimed at getting more pupils to grasp the basics at an early age.

There were 307 schools across the region which failed to hit a new minimum target in last year's national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds and fears are growing that a similar number will be classed as underperforming once this year's results are announced next week.

Ministers want all primary schools to ensure the majority of their 11-year-old pupils achieve a basic standard in the key subjects of English and maths.

The Government's education White Paper include plans for a new floor target for primary schools of getting 60 per cent of their pupils to achieve level four – the average standard expected of 11-year-olds – in both English and maths tests. They will also be expected to keep pace with the national average level of improvement being shown by pupils between the ages of seven and 11.

Leading head teachers in Yorkshire warn that using test results to create a new benchmark is a backward step.

Stephen Watkins, a national executive member of the NAHT and head teacher of a primary school in Leeds, told the Yorkshire Post he would want to renew a boycott of the Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) if Ministers pushed ahead with plans for a new floor target for primary schools.

Both the NAHT and the NUT boycotted this year's testing of 11-year-olds in protest at the impact they have on teachers but next year the NAHT has said it will not take part in any industrial action after Education Secretary Michael Gove agreed to an independent review of primary school testing.

Last year's SATS results, which are the most up-to-date figures available, show 307 schools – 18 per cent of the region's primaries – did not meet Minister's minimum target for pupils achieving a basic standard in English and maths. In nine different education authorities at least one in five schools would be rated as underperforming using the Government's new 60 per cent benchmark. Sheffield and Barnsley had the highest level of schools not making the grade with 29 and 28 per cent respectively. In Sheffield 34 of the 115 primaries saw less than 60 per cent of 11-year-olds achieving level four in the two core subjects while in Barnsley 22 of the council's 79 schools did not reach the new standard.

In Bradford, Hull, Leeds, North East Lincolnshire, Rotherham and Wakefield more than 20 per cent of schools did not make the grade while in Kirklees the figure was 20 per cent.

North Yorkshire had the best- performing pupils, with only six per cent of schools falling short of the Government target, while in Calderdale the figure was eight per cent.

An education campaign group, based in Yorkshire, has welcomed the Government's plans for a new minimum standard for primary schools and called for Ministers to go even further in an attempt to improve results.

Nick Seaton, the chairman of the Campaign for a Real Education said: "Primary schools are the most important stage of the education system. Children who do not grasp the basics in English and maths are at a disadvantage for the rest of their school life."

While schools were being paid for by taxpayers then people had a right to know how they performed, he said. The target of 60 per cent of pupils achieving a basic standard in English and maths was not too demanding.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has said the minimum standards set for both primaries and secondaries would be expected to rise over time.