Wednesday, June 24, 1998 Published at 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Government to set exam targets for 16-year-olds
Schools will be expected to set their own targets
The government is to set the first ever national targets for exam results at age 16.
The School Standards Minister, Stephen Byers, said the targets would be published next month.
Their introduction has been motivated by the fact that nearly 50,000 children in England leave school at 16 with nothing to show for 11 years of compulsory schooling.
"That is just not good enough and it has to change," Mr Byers told the Council of Local Education Authorities conference in Buxton, Derbyshire.
Targets will be set for the proportion of 16-year-old pupils who achieve at least one GCSE or its vocational equivalent (currently 92.3%) and the proportion achieving five passes at grades A* to C (presently 45.1%).
By 2002, it says 80% of children should leave primary school at the expected level for their age in English, while 75% should reach this level in maths.
Schools and local authorities will be expected to publish their own targets by the end of this year to deliver the new national goal. They will first take effect for exam results in summer 2000.
Local targets will also specify the average points score which pupils achieve in GCSE exams, or vocational equivalents.
The targets will include the percentage of 16-year-olds achieving five or more A* to C grades at GCSE (or its vocational equivalent) and the percentage achieving at least one GCSE.
Mr Byers said: "These particular targets have been chosen to ensure that schools are responsible for improving the results of all their pupils," he said.
"The establishment of targets for 16-year-olds alongside our already announced literacy and numeracy targets for 11-year-olds will mean that at both primary and secondary level we will have, for the first time, a clearly established process for judging the improvements achieved by individual schools."
The move was attacked by head teachers' leaders, who last month urged members to reject targets imposed by local education authorities on primary schools.
The General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart, said it was unlikely that local education authorities would set reasonable targets for secondary schools.
"Secondary heads have been involved in target setting for some years now. They do not need to be subjected to a bureaucratic requirement to agree targets with local education authorities, many of whom have far less experience of target setting than the schools concerned.
"It would be quite unreasonable to require secondary schools to become involved in the same target setting process as primary schools until the benefit of the literacy and numeracy strategies have been evaluated and until secondary schools have been given the necessary additional resources to make a challenging target setting agenda a desirable proposition."