ATL and NUT say government plans to raise targets is more about forcing schools to become academies than standards

Tim Lezard

Teaching unions have condemned government plans to raise test result targets in primary schools, saying the move is a cynical policy to force schools to become academies.

The government wants targets in English and maths to rise from 60% to 65%, meaning hundreds of primary schools risk being labelled failures.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “This move is more about forcing primary schools into academy conversion than it is about ‘standards’. Primary schools have shown little interest in the government’s academy programme. It is shocking that a government policy which has been roundly rejected for sound educational and practical reasons is being foisted on schools by which ever desperate means the government can think up.

“It is interesting to note that all the jurisdictions which Mr Gove claims to admire because of their international rankings in OECD Pisa tests put creativity and problem solving at the heart of the curriculum. If schools have to concentrate heavily, in a mechanistic and test focused way on English and maths for fear of being described as ‘underperforming’ that creativity will be further squeezed out of teaching and learning for primary age children.

“If we are to have an engaged population capable of asking critical questions, and thinking creatively about society and life, young people have to experience a curriculum in schools that provides those skills and the space to develop those capacities. This will not be possible if it is arbitrary assessment targets that leads and drives the curriculum.

“We have to ask some fundamental questions about the purpose of education, its content and how we assess and record young people’s strengths and successes as they progress through the education system. Mr Gove would do well to talk with and listen to members of the NUT who have much useful advice and guidance to offer on this.”

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “Teachers want the best for their pupils – they want them to achieve their potential and go on to have happy, successful lives. At every corner though, schools are met with distrust by government and ministers wielding no carrots, just big sticks. These tougher targets appear to be a cynical attempt to force even more schools into becoming academies despite the mixed evidence of academies’ success.

“The government would have more success in raising standards if it gave schools greater support and protected funding rather than constantly changing targets which just puts schools under needless pressure. The risk to young pupils is obvious – rather than being encouraged to learn and build upon their successes they are branded as failures.

“We are particularly disappointed that yet again, the government’s promised consultation on this hasn’t emerged and instead it has announced its plans without any consensus from the public and education professionals.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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