BBC article on Conservative SATs Policy

Here’s the article, which can be found at the address shown below:
Tory Sats plan ‘a huge step back’

Conservative proposals to reform Sats tests would be a “huge step backwards” for school accountability, Schools Minister Vernon Coaker has said.

The Tories want to scrap Sats taken by 11-year-olds in England at the end of their primary schooling, saying this would better serve their interests.

Pupils would instead sit national tests in the first year of secondary school, marked by their teachers.

The proposals were met with a mixed response from teachers’ leaders.

Unions which are planning to boycott next year’s Sats, gave qualified support to the policy but the NASUWT, which does not support the boycott, said the announcement had “appalling” implications for teachers.

Mr Coaker said the proposals, which were announced by shadow schools secretary Michael Gove, were “half-baked”.

The implications for primary and secondary school teachers are appalling
Chris Keates NASUWT general secretary

He said: “If Michael Gove is proposing to push the tests back to Year 7 in secondary school and not publish the results for each primary school, this will be a huge step backwards for school accountability and will deny parents information we know they find valuable.”

He also described the method of having the tests done and marked by teachers in secondary school, as “less reliable, less accurate and less effective”.

Mr Gove had told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that last year’s Sats system “went into meltdown”.

He said testing at the end of primary school “completely narrows teaching” and all the focus is on “drilling” children just for those tests.

Transparent

Testing pupils at the beginning of secondary school – and using teachers to mark exams instead of external examiners – would free the final year of primary school for “teaching in a broader sense”, he added.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) both oppose the current tests arguing that they damage children and schools.

They say Sats narrow the curriculum as schools are forced to “teach to the test”.

The two unions also object to the publication of the results for 11-year-olds in league tables, but the Conservatives do not plan to change this.

NUT head of education John Bangs said he welcomed the “imaginative” Conservative proposals.

But he stressed the Tories needed to explain whether they were proposing “compulsory” tests for every child in secondary school and whether these would be fed into school performance tables.

He said he would like to hear Mr Gove say the Conservatives were opposed to the use of results to compare schools against each other.

However NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates warned that even if Sats were abolished, what she termed “divisive performance league tables” would remain.

She said: “Now the primary school rankings will be based on the results of tests internally administered and marked by secondary schools.

“The implications for primary and secondary school teachers are appalling.”

Miss Keates said teachers would face a new system of testing, and all the extra work that involved.

‘Irresponsible’

Last October, Schools Secretary Ed Balls scrapped Sats for 14-year-olds in England after the fiasco over the marking of exam papers, but the tests remain for seven and 11-year-olds.

The government says the tests are important to parents and that a boycott would be “irresponsible”.

However, ministers have agreed to recommendations from a group of experts, which include scrapping science Sats taken by 10 and 11-year-olds from next year.

Instead, teachers will assess pupils, but English and maths tests stay.

The tests will be moved back next year from May to June.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/education/8099705.stm

Published: 2009/06/14 16:32:04 GMT

© BBC MMIX

Points worthy of addressing are numerous, so I’ll try keep it brief…

  • Firstly, I can’t believe I am in agreement with the Conservatives on something!
  • It is not “a step backwards for school accountability” unless the government acknowledges the failure of last year’s decision to scrap KS3 National Tests.
  • It absolutely would be in the interests of pupils and teachers – surely the key stakeholders here.
  • Teachers have to be trusted to assess pupils.  For one thing, it’s an integral part of the job for which they are paid.  For another, the alternative of using A-Level students and the like to mark papers has been exposed to be less than adequate.
  • It would be enlightening to know precisely what “appalling” implications the NASUWT envisage, should the Conservative policy be implemented when they (undoubtedly, whether we like it or not) form a government.  We need to be able to trust members of our own profession.
  • If Vernon Coaker considers the proposals to be half-baked, he should follow through logically and insist that no teacher assess their own groups.
  • It is not clear how it will deny parents “information they find valuable”.  The National Tests are not a gold standard (closer to tin or lead), as we know.
  • It would free children in Year 6 for “teaching in a broader sense”, as Michael Gove states.  It is well known in primary schools that KS2 National Tests severely restrict the curriculum, dampening children’s enthusiasm for education.

I still cannot quite accept that a Conservative policy has struck a chord with me.  Having said this, it’s not a total conversion on my part.  League tables have to go, for the policy to have the desired impact of broadening the curriculum.  They are the reason why schools focus on the “core” (tested) subjects, soon to be reduced to English and mathematics.  Life for Year 6 children and teachers is unlikely to change until this pernicious and corrosive influence is abolished.

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