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West Berkshire Primary Head's Association calls for radical change in education system

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Paul Field speaks to NWN about the future of the district's schooling

THE chairman of West Berkshire’s Primary Heads Association has called for a radically different approach to education following Ofsted’s damning verdict on the district’s primary schools.

Last month a report from Ofsted placed the district in the bottom 10 ranked local authorities for the number of primary schools ranked good or better by the education watchdog.

Now, Paul Field, who is also the headteacher of Basildon Primary School, has launched a blistering attack on Ofsted and government policy and is warning of a changing climate in which the strains put upon teachers and pupils is at crisis point.

Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News in response to the recent report, he said: “The current climate is creating a genuine recruitment and retention crisis. The distortions and soundbites of this government must be challenged hard.

“Young people aren’t signing up, experienced teachers are walking away.”

He gave sharp criticism of the education regulator which provided the data for the number of failing schools in the first place.

He said: “Ofsted is a political organisation with an unpredictable agenda and timetable, and changes the rules on a regular basis, creating uncertainty and unnecessary stress.

“Headteachers are very much in favour of accountability – but we want to be accountable to our families and children, not an aggressive and destructive organisation which changes its tune to meet the latest political requirement.

“We don’t speak to many – none in my case – parents, who support current policy. They are worried about what is happening to their children and we share their concerns.

“Most parents want their children to be happy and safe at school. They want to know if they have friends and are behaving well.

“The expectation for the end of primary education is to have a range of skills and attitudes that will enable them to move to secondary school excited and able to learn more.

“It is imperative that you talk with parents and engage in giving them a voice – teachers ‘moaning’ will be too easily dismissed.”

Speaking of the many changes facing schools including new curriculum and assessment, he said it was creating “a huge amount of turmoil”.

He added: “It is also creating a significant crisis in confidence with heads increasingly feeling they do not believe in what they are doing.

“We are having to set expectations and ask teachers to do things we don’t believe are necessary or helpful. We have a duty of care to our staff and it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the level of protection we would wish to give.

“Most teachers are currently very stressed and unhappy – our integrity and sense of worth is challenged on a daily basis as the pressure increases to deliver an inappropriate and dull curriculum.

“An unhappy staffroom leads to less happy children. However hard staff work to cover it up children are very astute and they know something is wrong.”

He said that the solution was a different approach to education, focusing instead on individuals and not targets.

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