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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Education 'in a mess' says head
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has not met the head teacher
An independent school head teacher has said the education system is "in a total mess" and Education Secretary Ruth Kelly is "a disaster."

Dr David Hempsall, head of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Blackburn, said the national curriculum was harming children's development.

He told parents and pupils exam results were "massaged" every year to make standards appear better than they were.

But the Department for Education said teaching quality had never been better.


In a speech at a school prizegiving ceremony, Dr Hempsall said government targets were artificial constructs which had no relevance to teaching professionals and did not help to raise standards.

"When they're met, ministers preen; when they're missed, it's the poor practitioners who are pilloried."

The national curriculum... is academically and intellectually impoverished
Dr David Hempsall
Everything was centred on the "twin altars of literacy and numeracy", he said.

As a result many pupils he interviewed at 11 years old had not been taught more creative subjects such as art and music.

"Kids are like blotting paper at this age and absorb so much, but they're having everything knocked out of them because of Sats [national curriculum tests]," he said.

"The national curriculum is a disaster," his speech continued. "While it has some effect in raising the floor, it is academically and intellectually impoverished, however much teachers flex it."

Memorable lessons were rare.

"I do believe that a Royal Commission is needed to have a look at the entire system, which is in a total mess. Some kind of holistic approach is needed."

The Independent Schools Council, of which Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School is a member, declined to comment on his views.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said Dr Hempsall had never met the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly.

"The A-level system is tried and tested," he said.

"We have seen improved results in recent years because standards of teaching have never been higher - all the credible evidence shows that exams have not become easier.

"It is right that there is a focus on the basics, but subjects such as design and technology, ICT, history, geography, modern foreign languages, art and design, music, PE and citizenship are all an important part of the national curriculum at primary level," he said.

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