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MORE TEACHING LESS TESTING

“We just want to spend more time teaching and less time testing. We want every child to matter. And we want to be judged on how well we lead our schools not where they happen to be located or the chance outcomes of a single day.” Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers released this heart-felt plea to the government, in light of the review of SATs recently ordered by Michael Gove. SATs have long been a source of discussion in the Primary sector, with over a quarter of schools boycotting the tests for 11 year olds, last July.

These tests provide a national, standardised benchmark for children when moving on to senior schools at 11+ and are used for inspection/ comparison purposes. In announcing the review, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, admitted the government recognised that: “existing tests skewed lessons for pupils in Year 6.” They also understood that: “Too many schools feel they must drill children for tests and are spending too much time on test preparation in Year 6 at the expense of productive teaching and learning.”

“We want to be judged on how well we lead our schools not where they happen to be located or the chance outcomes of a single day”


Christine Blower, the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, summed up why the need for review was so timely by identifying how the concentration on achieving good results in SATs “limits the curriculum and encourages teaching to the test.”

The external review is to be led by Lord Bew, an academic at Queen’s University Belfast, a crossbench peer who was appointed by Tony Blair for the part he played in the Northern Ireland peace process. Other members include former Ofsted Executive director, Miriam Rosen, and Ruth Miskin, the education consultant well known for championing the understanding of phonics in the teaching of reading. They will be joined by practising headteachers from Primary and Secondary sectors.

Many Independent Prep Schools have already decided that SATs are unnecessary and they gather assessment in other ways. Just under 30% of schools that belong to IAPS (The Independent Association of Prep Schools) use Key Stage 2 SATs for eleven year olds. “Like the NAHT, IAPS is fundamentally opposed to league tables and therefore recommends that schools avoid publishing results,” said Julie Robinson, their Education Training Director.

Russell Hobby has agreed not to recommend a boycott of the 2011 tests whilst the review is in progress: “We realise that there are genuine differences about what should replace (SATs) but the opportunity for evidence and dialogue will get us to a better place.” He concedes: “There is a clear recognition that the nation has legitimate interest in what is taught and how well it is taught.”

Eds Up looks forward to July when the findings will be published, alas too late for the children who will be sitting the tests next summer!

Useful links: The Independent Association of Prep Schools: www.iaps.org.uk
The Independent Schools Council: www.isc.co.uk