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Parents 'have doubts on new exams'

The majority of parents do not believe that the Government's move to introduce tougher exams will help to raise school standards, a poll suggests.

It also reveals that many parents think that pressures on schools to rapidly introduce new initiatives will have a negative impact on their child's education.

The survey, conducted by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) ahead of their annual conference due to be held in Birmingham this weekend, asked around 1,000 parents for their views on education.

It found that just 39% of mothers and fathers think that the decision to revamp exams such as GCSEs and A-levels to make them more rigorous will raise school standards, with 28% saying it will lead to lower standards and a further 34% suggesting the change will have no effect.

The poll also found that just 30% of parents think that another of the coalition Government's key education policies - the academies and free schools programme - will help to raise school standards.

Teaching unions have previously raised concerns about the pace of the Government's school reforms - which includes changes to exams, the curriculum and how schools are held to account.

Around 73% of the parents questioned said that they thought pressure on schools to implement new initiatives in a short space of time could impact negatively on their child's schooling, while 69% agreed that politicians should trust schools to make the right choices for pupils.

And just over half (53%) said schools should be given formal credit such as league table rankings to demonstrate what they have done to help students develop qualities such as resilience and confidence.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: "Our education system is not perfect and most school leaders recognise the need for reform. They want that reform to be planned well in advance, focused on the highest priorities and scheduled sensibly throughout a parliamentary term. Government initiatives would get more support and better implementation if they appeared to be better planned.

"By autumn this year, schools will have introduced new safeguarding advice in staff recruitment, ensured their practices are complying with new freedom of information policies, made decisions on new pay policies, adopted new codes of practice for special needs pupils, introduced an entire new curriculum, redesigned assessment and ensured that every primary school is ready to offer free school meals to infants regardless of existing kitchen facilities.

"Many will also be building new classrooms to meet pupil demand or keeping up with Ofsted's changing guidelines. Some of these new initiatives are sensible ideas, but all at the same time?"

He added: " There are no silver bullets in education reform, no bright ideas that will transform everything overnight. Getting the basics right in every school, doing a few things consistently well over an extended period of time -- these are the only 'secrets' of success."

Mr Hobby said that the NAHT was calling on the next government to create an " Office of Education Responsibility" that would examine proposed education reforms.

:: The poll questioned 1,018 parents of school-age children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We agree that politicians should trust the profession to make the right choices for pupils. That is why our academies and free schools programme is taking away power from politicians and giving it to heads and teachers who know the children's names.

"Thanks to our reforms, teachers now have more control over what goes on in the classroom and much greater powers to ensure good behaviour and tough discipline."


From Belfast Telegraph