Struggling primaries ‘set to miss targets’

CALDERDALE “super head” David Kirk received applause from teachers, heads and education professionals when he said some of the country’s 200 struggling primary schools had no hope of exceeding the Government’s minimum performance targets.

Mr Kirk is the executive director of Ash Green Primary, at Mixenden, and Dean Field Primary, at Ovenden, Halifax.

Until Christmas, he had been supporting Mount Pellon Primary, Halifax, where 70 per cent of the children don’t have English as their first language.

Mr Kirk told the North of England Education Conference: “We will never beat these floor targets, ever.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “I do understand there are challenges - areas of deprivation, children from very dysfunctional backgrounds and some schools clearly have high proportions of children who come from very difficult backgrounds.

“These schools face bigger challenges.

“But we are absolutely determined that the background of a child should not affect the ultimate education they receive or the achievement they make,” he said.

The Schools Minister backed Education Secretary Michael Gove’s robust language about local authorities who resist Government plans to deal with the 200 worst performing primary schools in England as he offered a strong defence of the academies programme.

The minister told the conference, in Leeds, the Government was right to challenge “vested interests” and said the autonomy offered by academy status was the best way to raise standards.

He said: “The whole drive behind the academy programme which we inherited from the previous administration but which we have expedited and accelerated, is based on the evidence from around the world that it is the most effective way of achieving high standards in schools - to deliver autonomy and to give professionals that autonomy to run schools as they see fit.”

Mr Gibb stressed the importance of the Government’s plan to convert the weakest 200 primary schools into academies.

He said: “If schools aren’t making the right progress, and local authorities don’t have a grip on the issue, we will be able to intervene to secure the best possible result for the children in those schools.

“We want to drive up standards in schools right across the country.”