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Michael Gove announced this week an increase in primary school floor targets, an increase in the amount of testing for primary school pupils and the intention to place all pupils in a league table ranked on ability. If you oppose these policies please consider adding your name to the list of signatories of the open letter to Mr Gove below. It comes from supporters of the Primary Charter, which comprises a set of alternative policies to those of the government.

You can find the letter and the Charter on the website primarycharter.wordpress.com. A conference on the Primary Charter is being planned in the West Midlands next term. Details to follow. And if you want more on the case against fixed ability teaching read chapter 2 of Learning Without Limits.

Initial signatories of the Open Letter below. See hundreds more on the website.

Malory Blackman, Children’s Laureate
Michael Rosen Children’s Author
Alan Gibbons Children’s Author
Andy Seed Children’s Author
John Coe NAPE National Association Primary Education
Dr Terry Wrigley Leeds Met University
Clare Kelly Lecturer Goldsmiths University

Kenny Frederick, Executive member, NAHT

Christine Blower Gen Sec NUT
Kevin Courtney Dep Gen Sec NUT
Max Hyde National Vice President NUT

Sara Tomlinson Lambeth NUT
Jess Edwards Coordinator Primary Charter
Dr John Yandell Institute of Education
Alex Kenny Inner London Exec, NUT

We are writing to express our concern over the announcement on Wednesday of an increase in primary school floor targets, an increase in the amount of testing for primary school pupils and the intention to place all pupils in a league table ranked on ability. Rather than a philosophy of every child matters, this is a world where only the person at the top counts. Any child struggling to pass tests due to a special educational need is automatically labelled a failure.

Last month we held a conference to launch the Primary Charter. This was a conference which brought together teachers, parents, governors and teacher educators. We have produced a ‘manifesto’ for primary schools, outlining how we think pupils learn best. This includes trusting the professional judgement of teachers, allowing children to learn at their own pace and through play, while taking account of their own experiences. It involves giving pupils an opportunity to develop a love of learning and nurturing their ability to interact with others. We have already seen the damage done to children in this country through over-testing. Research has shown that our
children are unhappy and more worried about tests than in any other developed country. Crucially this does not lead to improved educational outcomes. There is no evidence to show that testing and ranking children improves their learning, but plenty that demonstrates the effect being labelled a failure has on their self-esteem and confidence. We prefer to look to the model of education we see in Finland where no inspections, no punitive lesson observations and minimal testing leads to consistently high standards, huge levels of teacher satisfaction, minimal social selection and an education sector that is lauded throughout the world.

Instead we see an announcement today that the attainment thresholds schools must reach is to be increased from 60% to 85%. The government want to test children earlier and force a more formal education, learning by rote and parroting facts driven right down into the early years. We suspect this is part of a move to hand publicly owned education over to the private sector though an increase in the number of schools forced to become academies. The signatories of the charter reject this model of education and appeal to parents, teachers and support staff to engage in a dialogue with schools to reject Gove’s vision. The primary charter can be found on primarycharter.wordpress.com.

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