A "bonfire of targets" is needed to give teachers the freedom to do their jobs properly, the shadow education secretary has said.
Damian Green called for a lessening of bureaucracy and a "slimming down" of the national curriculum.
Damian Green attacked "centralisation" of education
Speaking at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, he said: "Contrary to the old saying, the gentleman in Whitehall does not know best.
"We must completely reverse this approach if we are going to improve the standards of our schools."
The government sets targets for schools to achieve in tests taken by seven, 11 and 14-year-old pupils and for GCSEs, as well as asking teachers to show lesson plans to heads of departments.
Mr Green said this "centralised" approach was wrong, leading to 20 pages of paperwork for each school day.
He added: "The vast majority of the targets set up by the government don't work, nor will they ever work.
"At best they are pointless. The truancy target has now been revised downwards having been missed. What is the point?
"The targets in primary schools have damaged the opportunities for children to learn, because teachers have been forced to teach towards the tests, not towards the goal of a broad, high-quality education."
The national curriculum was introduced by the then Conservative government in the early 1990s.
After Mr Green's speech, Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, said, to loud laughter: "This union is a broad church and we welcome sinners who repent."
Doug Willis, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, also addressed the conference.
He called for the scrapping of league tables of schools' results.
Mr Willis said: "After a decade of slavish adherence to central targets, the evidence is they simply do not work."
The conference voted on Sunday to ballot NUT members on a boycott of all testing of pupils aged seven, 11 and 14, seriously challenging the government's education policy.