A HEADTEACHER at a school in the region is resigning in protest at the Government's education policy - saying he no longer wants to work in "an education system that I do not believe in."

Jed Gargan, head of Aycliffe Village Primary School, near Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, wrote a letter to parents saying he thought increasingly difficult SATS exams for both seven and 11-year-olds placed "unrealistic expectations" which were "setting pupils up to fail."

He also believes that the Government is forcing all schools to become academies - taking them out of council control - without doing anything to improve educational performance.

But the Government has rejected his claims - arguing there is evidence its reforms are raising standards.

Mr Gargan appeared to have won the support from parents at his school as well as the approval of the National Union of Teachers.

It conducted a survey of 831 school leaders nationwide which reveals 93 per cent do not think the Government should force every school to become an academy. It also found 75 per cent of headteachers felt teacher morale had declined over the past two years while 49 per cent of teachers are thinking of quitting the profession.

Mr Gargan said he thought the Government's new school national funding formula was "an inexorable step towards the relentless push to make all primaries become academies under the guise this will raise standards."

He was also scathing at the "undue pressure" increasingly difficult SATS exams place on both pupils and staff.

"The current expectations and curriculum, as I see it, will not raise standards. They will turn pupils off from what should be an exciting time in their lives.

"I believe the current system is putting too much pressure, not just on pupils, but on our hard working staff, too. Teaching to the test is becoming the norm and there is a move away from the broad and balanced curriculum as teaching focuses on a test.

"This is not the education system that I signed up to when I left engineering to pursue a career helping others to fulfil their own potential."

Speaking at the 157-pupil school, rated Good by Ofsted, Mr Gargan, told The Northern Echo he wasn't against some schools being academies in special circumstances.

However, he added: "If it was such a good idea, why didn't every school become one? It isn't right for every school. To make every school an academy takes away that special status in any case."

On the increasingly difficult SATS exams for seven and 11-year-olds, Mr Gargan, who has been head for nine years and a teacher for 25, said: "One of my teaching assistants said her sister's little boy was actually in tears about these exams. I'm not against tests, but there's a problem with the level of expectation. The focus of the school is to teach only for the test. The curriculum is being narrowed when it should be being broadened out."

Christine Blower General Secretary National Union of Teachers, backed Mr Gargan and said: "There are logical reasons why half of school leaders say that they cannot go on and are thinking of leaving. This Government has the wrong priorities."

But a Department for Education spokeswoman defended the Government's record. She said: “It is disappointing to hear of any teacher choosing to leave the profession. Our reforms are raising standards and thanks to the hard work of teachers there are a record number of children in good or outstanding schools: 1.4m more since 2010 and a further 30,000 in the last four months alone."

Durham County Council, the Local Education Authority, declined to comment. James Walsh, chairman of the school governors, could not be contacted for comment.