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NAHT comment on pressures of accountability for special needs pupils

School leaders union NAHT has spoken out in support of a head teacher following an emotional BBC interview.

Nigel Utton, head of Bromstone Primary School in Kent, said he had decided to step down from his job after feeling worn down by a system that he believes values test results over individual pupil achievement - even for special needs pupils. 

Speaking on 5 Live Breakfast yesterday (29 April 2014), Mr Utton said his value as a head teacher was being assessed not on "how brilliant" a child's life is but on how they performed in a test aged 11. 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT said it was time to acknowledge the contribution schools make every day to help all pupils achieve their best - especially those which support a high number of children with special needs. 

Mr Hobby said: "The true measure of an education system is whether every single child matters. It is a badge of pride to school leaders to seek out and welcome the most vulnerable learners into their schools and build an environment where they thrive. Many schools build special expertise and set up specialist units for special needs like hearing impairment or autism. 

"Parents value these services highly and yet we do not celebrate the work of these schools sufficiently. In fact, we often make their work harder. It is right that schools should be accountable, and that includes accountability for ensuring that children with special needs reach their full potential. But the nature of special needs means that each child has unique potential and individual challenges. A crude data and target driven approach to accountability, which too often boils down to a single threshold measure of attainment averaged out across the year group, is part of the problem not part of the solution. 

"We need high quality inspection to get beneath the data and we need to focus on progress as the defining measure of school success. We need to reward head teachers for seeking out greater challenges." 

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Page Published: 30/04/2014