Education & Family

NAHT head Russell Hobby: Targets 'risk pupil well-being'

Pupils' well-being and education should not be sacrificed to meet new targets, a head teachers' leader has said.

Speaking at the association's annual conference, the NAHT's Russell Hobby drew parallels with the "human tragedy" of Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.

The effects of management by data will be more subtle in schools, but "equally devastating", he said.

The government said schools had more freedom than ever before to use their "expertise and creativity".

A public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire scandal found that hundreds of the trust's patients had died unnecessarily, as it focused on cost-cutting and targets.

In his Birmingham speech, NAHT general secretary Mr Hobby said a relentless focus on the "bottom line" served to damage results in education.

That refers to the so-called floor targets schools have to meet in order to provide an acceptable standard of education.

Some say it leads teachers to focus efforts on the lowest achieving pupils to get them over those targets.

During the speech Mr Hobby added: "To warn of the dangers of management by data, we need only turn to the more human tragedy of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, where patient care was sacrificed to meet the targets.

"The same forces are rising within education. The effects will be more subtle but equally devastating."

'Deliver the basics'

Instead the whole contribution that schools make should be valued, he insisted.

He also encouraged heads to ditch the new national curriculum, set to be introduced in schools from 2014 and which the government has been consulting on, and teach what they feel is best.

Ministers have faced criticisms that they have tried to introduce too much, too soon in primary school maths, and that they are overly focused on spelling and grammar in English.

Image caption Head teachers gave the education secretary a frosty reception on Saturday

Mr Hobby said he hoped that Education Secretary Michael Gove would follow his advice and create more freedom when he published the final curriculum.

He added: "Take it, deliver the basics and then go on to teach what you know to be right and to build the experiences that will produce well-rounded young people when they leave your school.

"That will include times tables and phonics, grammar and coding. It will also include the rich local history of your community, volunteering, sport and adventure, field trips and theatre visits, time to get lost in a good book."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "The new curriculum is based on careful analysis of the world's most successful school systems and will mean every child can get a broad and balanced education.

"Schools and teachers have more freedom than ever before to use their expertise and creativity to shape the curriculum to meet the needs of their pupils. Indeed, academies and free schools are free to choose whether they want to follow this curriculum or develop their own, based on some of the best ideas from anywhere in the world."

On Saturday, the conference passed a motion of no confidence in Mr Gove's education policies and gave the education secretary a chilly reception.Targets 'risk pupil well-being'

Mr Gove claimed the heads he had faced did not give any constructive alternatives to his policies.

Mr Hobby told the conference: "We've given plenty of constructive criticism. I don't think anyone can miss our dismay at some of what is said and done, but we have plenty more ideas for a better way."

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