Gove's GCSE targets will hurt gifted pupils, claims Tory MP

Schools will ignore gifted pupils and those with special needs as a result of a new government target for ranking them, the Conservative chairman of the influential Commons select committee on education said yesterday.

Graham Stuart accused Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, of a U-turn over setting new targets for all schools to get 50 per cent of their pupils to obtain five A* to C grades at GCSE. In one of the most forthright criticisms so far of the Government's education policy by a Conservative MP, Mr Stuart gave warning the target could lead to up to 50 per cent of secondary schools being classified as "failing". At present, 870 out of the 3,000 secondary schools in England fail to reach the target of half of their pupils gaining five A* to C grades. "You can imagine the hundreds of schools above them will be paranoid to the point of total distraction at the prospect of joining that 'failing' group," Mr Stuart added. "You could have 40, almost 50 per cent, of the secondary schools in this country utterly obsessed to the expense of everything else to avoid being in that category."

The result would be pupils put on "dead-end courses just to help schools pass a mark", he said. "If you've got to meet the 50 per cent target, do you admit the special-needs child to your schools?" he asked. "Is this going to help call attention to the child with special education needs who has no chance whatsoever of getting five GCSEs, or is a headteacher going to put most attention on the progress of the borderline [D to C grade] pupil? Is the child who is definitely going to get a B grade whatever happens going to get attention? It seems to me the answer must be 'no'."

Mr Stuart said successive governments had failed to focus on accountability measures that focused on the performance of every child and it appeared the present Government was "backtracking" on moving away from a focus on five good GCSE grades for all, including in maths and English.

The Coalition's approach will, Mr Stuart said, mean that schools would "like some demented maniac keep moving the spotlight on to another area... [and] sure enough, if you shine on another area it tends to improve, but it comes at the expense of elsewhere".

He advocated ranking schools on "contextual valued-added" scores – whereby pupils were given a ranking on what they had achieved when they started and then given a new one on taking their GCSEs. This would show whether the school had improved the performance of its pupils.

Under the Government's proposals, schools will have to reach the 50 per cent target by 2015. At present, the target is 35 per cent. When Mr Gove increased the target last month, he said: "I realise that in stating this aspiration some will criticise too strong a focus on testing." He added that an outstanding school would also look after the pastoral needs of its pupils.

A spokesman for the Department for Education insisted yesterday: "The new standards are judged on the progress that all pupils make, not just attainment – to take into account schools which have very challenging intakes and to make sure that their hard work is properly recognised."

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

DT Teacher, Full time supply role, Maidstone school

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We urgently require an experienc...

Primary supply teachers required in Stowmarket

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam