Union tells headteachers to boycott education targets

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The Independent Online

Headteachers are being urged by their union to take part in a national rebellion against the Government's plans to set targets for test and exam marks.

Leaders of the National Association of Head Teachers have written to urge members to ignore centrally imposed targets set by local education authorities and the Secretary of State for Education, Estelle Morris. The call represents a setback for the Government, which believes the plans can raise standards in state schools. Heads may now refuse to collate or provide information which is requested by Ofsted inspectors or used to compile school league tables.

NAHT leaders claim the targets put far too high an administrative burden on school leaders. They urged members to set their own targets based more realistically on what the school could achieve.

One of the heads' main concerns is over the Government's decision to press ahead with new targets for national curriculum test results for 11-year-olds for 2004 before they have reached those set for next year.

Ministers have called for 85 per cent to reach the required standards in maths and English tests by 2004 – even though it is now looking increasingly unlikely that they will meet existing targets of 80 per cent in English and 75 per cent in maths in 2002. Targets are also being set for the percentage of pupils obtaining at least five A* to C grade passes in GCSEs.

David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, said many heads were in "fear and trepidation" over the new targets. "The Government's unrelenting emphasis on target-setting means that primary and secondary schools face unbelievably tough challenges," he said.

In its advice to members, the NAHT says: "This is a monumentally prescriptive and centralising agenda. Target-setting needs to be both flexible and pragmatic. Schools must exercise their own judgement."