Judge for yourself who should be named and shamed

personally speaking
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The Independent Online
The new government has not made a good start in restoring the shattered morale of teachers. The "naming and shaming" of failing schools, the fast-track sacking of incompetent teachers suggests that the "treat them rough" attitude of the Tories has infected the thinking of Labour.

Now we find this week that teachers are so untrusted that there will be new rules about government tests. Papers, for instance, can only be opened one hour before the tests to stop any cheating through special preparation.

If anyone is not convinced that such an attitude is counter-productive, they should consider the story of Mary (not her real name), the headteacher of a deprived inner-city school.

Mary came to teaching late but rose quickly. She took over a struggling primary school and brought the kind of rigorous approach to raising standards that would have David Blunkett swooning. Ofsted passed her school and dubbed Mary a "strong headteacher".

Despite having 65 per cent of her school's children on free school meals, the key stage one results are above the national average. However, not satisfied with the standards at key stage two, Mary has pushed her teachers hard to bring about improvements.

But Mary is now considering whether to quit. The events which have caused Mary so much anguish are the marking of key stage two tests completed by her ten and 11 year-old pupils earlier this year.

At the end of June, Mary received two letters from the senior manager for test administrations. The first referred to concerns about "a significant amount of commonality in the answers that children have provided" in their maths scripts. Details were given about named pupils and the test manager asked for explanations. Remarkably, he went on to assert that there had been "a high level of malpractice" without waiting for a reply .

The second letter, received a day later, concerned the children's English scripts and indicated that there was commonality in the opening sentences and phraseology used in the writing test. It was said the spelling test did not always correlate well with the children's spelling on the writing and reading tests.

Fortunately, the scripts had been returned to the school so Mary was able to answer the assertions of "malpractice". She stressed there was no surprise concerning the commonality of the opening sentences because the children had been learning how to write reports in a particular format all year and they had picked up stock phrases.

On the issue of spelling Mary was able to explain that the children's test scripts had confirmed a trend that the school had already identified. They are using a computer-assisted learning package with a structured spelling element. Although the children do eventually learn to spell much better, the spelling does tend to lag behind their reading and writing.

Answering assertions of "malpractice" in the mathematics test Mary indicated the test markers have little understanding of how some children think mathematically.

All the test results have now been verified. However, before the last three mathematics results can be released the senior administrator has asked for the class teacher's planning sheets, details of the test seating arrangements for the children listed and declarations from Mary and her deputy that the test papers were held securely. An assurance was also sought that the children's responses on the tests represent their individual and independent work. Two of the level six passes were only ratified after Mary explained to the senior administrator that the two children involved had won scholarships to reputable private schools.

Mary says: "We have been scrupulous in our investigation throughout. There was always another person, sometimes me, in the test room with the class teacher and the papers were opened at the correct time. I have had enough. Not only are they telling us how useless we are as teachers, they are questioning our integrity."

Such sentiments are being expressed by teachers across the country. Unless David Blunkett calls off the dogs soon, the mauling they are giving teachers may well lead to a depleted profession that is not in a fit state to bring about the improvements he seeks.

The writer is head of a south London comprehensive and writes in a personal capacity

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