Failure begins with name game

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The Independent Online
Darren, Dean, Damien and Liam and their classmates in inner-city schools will never match up to the national targets inspectors use to judge them, it was claimed yesterday, writes Lucy Ward.

Using a role call of typical names clearly recognised by many in his audience, Nottingham geography teacher Nigel Turner told delegates at the NASUWT conference that pupils in his comprehensive had no hope of meeting national norms even if given "all the resourcing, staffing, technology and inspirational teachers in the world for years on end".

Likening his school to the children's television programme Fraggle Rock - "full of looneys and muppets" - Mr Turner painted a bleak picture of preparations for inspection by the schools watchdog Ofsted in his school.

The process began with a letter warning of the imminent arrival of a "team of scowling, ferreting, out-of-touch, negative, unco-operative and unsupportive inspectors". Then came the "paperwork, policy documents, tick-lists, the meetings the back biting, the displays, the extra meetings ..."

At the end of it all Mr Turner predicted the school would be told what it already knew - that it was "generally sound", while standards of pupil achievement would be found to be "well below national norms".

But, he claimed, Darren, Dean and their friends "can't do it, never will do it and frankly couldn't give a damn if they don't do it at all", yet none of the blame fell at the door of the pupils or their parents. Mr Turner called for new inspection criteria which recognised the value added by schools, and judged each on its merits. Schools should not be compared with others elsewhere, but measured according to how they achieved in their own particular circumstances, he said.

Ofsted inspection reports refer to the number of children receiving free school meals in a particular school, but pupils' achievement is measured against national norms.

Nigel de Gruchy, leader of the NASUWT, said he did not interpret Mr Turner's comments as suggesting pupils' names were an indicator of likely academic success or failure.