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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 8 June, 1999, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Appeal for fewer tests and targets in schools
Headteacher
Pupils should leave school with more than exams, says headteacher
A headteachers' leader has called on education ministers to abandon "short-termism" and a "culture of fear" - and instead to embrace policies that will "enhance the life chances of future generations".

The appeal came from Chris Thatcher, incoming President of the National Association of Head Teachers, in his speech to the union's annual conference in Cardiff.

"Teaching was, is and always will be one of the most exciting, stimulating and privileged jobs there is to do," he said.

Pupils
Teachers should be working in an education system that will have long-term social benefits
Headteachers had a duty to help those who made policies to make realistic, sensible and valuable decisions and not "to let them tie us down in dogma or experiment" if that did not benefit the pupils.

'Fear and stress'

"Change is to be welcomed if it is workable and benefits our youngsters," he said. "We need to embrace change and not bury our heads in the sand. That is not to say that we should have blind faith."

He complained about excessive performance measurement in England's schools, and an inspection system that created "an ethos of fear and stress" that had convinced teachers that flair, risk and excitement had no place in the classroom.

"We measure and test our schools almost to distraction," he said. Government should trust the skills of professional teachers, not pursue "a tight and constraining dictatorial curriculum".

Youngsters were not "sponges" - their development was about much more than literacy and numeracy.

They had a right to those basic skills, but also to citizenship skills - sharing, caring, tolerance - and to an aesthetic appreciation of the world around them. They also had a right to the same standard of education provision and, therefore, funding.

'Crude measures'

"Short-termism is rife," Mr Thatcher said, denouncing the reviews of the curriculum and of the exam system - a system which he said was "demotivational and limiting".

Unions 99
"We have fallen into the trap of crude measures of performance, which deny our children the right to shine as individuals," he said.

"National success, in the long term, will be brought about by those nations who recognise and value the creative, the fearless, those who are not afraid to fail - and say so - once in a while."

Mr Thatcher praised the achievements of the Labour government: freeing up funding and recognising the importance of a sound and balanced education. But he said the long-term vision was lacking.

In 100 years' time, what would matter would be the influence teachers had now on the children of the 21st century.

"Education is the key to unlock the potential for the future - it is the greatest mechanism for change that we have," he said.

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