The Government's education policy came under savage attack from one of its most trusted advisers last night over the "Stalinist" national curriculum and its over-reliance on primary school testing.
Professor Tim Brighouse, who announced his retirement as chief education officer for Birmingham City Council days ago, called for primary school test league tables to be scrapped to avoid as many as one in four youngsters being labelled failures at 11.
He also criticised the Government's performance-related pay scheme for teachers, saying it "could plant the seeds of [a] school's destruction" by dividing staff. Professor Brighouse warned ministers they were in danger of "switching off" from education the very children from deprived communities they wanted to help succeed by treating tests in the three Rs as the sole measure of success in primary schools. He also said the national curriculum was "more prescriptive than any other state's ... more so than the Stalinist regimes of the USSR".
His message was delivered in a lecture at the Royal Society of Arts on the day a report by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, praised him for his "inspirational" leadership of Birmingham. As a trusted confidant of both Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, and her predecessor David Blunkett, his criticisms will be seen in education circles as a bitter blow to the credibility of some of the reforms. On primary schooling, he warned schools had to rethink their policies to allow a broader curriculum for pupils struggling to cope with the three Rs.
"Schools need to rethink their use of time so children whose different talents are developing at different speeds have experiences which will boost their confidence and give them a taste of success rather than seeing themselves labelled as comparative failures in the three Rs." he said.
The publication of primary school league tables was, he said, "severely damaging to those pupils [25 per cent mostly from 'challenged' families] having trouble with literacy and numeracy".