Fallout spreads from Sats bombshell

One week on, heads and union leaders are still scratching their heads about the future of targets and assessments
24th October 2008, 1:00am
Warwick Mansell & Helen Ward


Fallout spreads from Sats bombshell


Confusion reigns over what key stage 3 targets are still faced by secondary schools, a week after the surprise scrapping of national tests for that stage.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families was able to confirm that targets would not be set for local authorities, but not whether it would be expecting schools to carry on setting targets.

Local authorities had faced four high-profile KS3 targets, which were set for each area. These were based on the proportion of pupils achieving at least level five in both English and maths; the proportion doing so in science and the proportion progressing at least two levels during KS3 in English and maths.

A spokesperson for the department said: "In the light of the announcement, schools will no longer be required to test pupils at KS3, (which) means that all KS3 targets will also be removed."

But although it could confirm the end of local authority targets, the department could not say whether this meant schools would also stop setting themselves targets.

Without an end of stage test, it is possible that teacher assessment judgments could be used instead.

The Government was preparing advice to send to local authorities as The TES went to press and would not give any further details.

John Bangs, National Union of Teachers head of education, said: "I think there is a real confusion about what the decision means, it begs more questions than answers."

Teacher assessment judgments for KS3 will still be collected and published at national and local authority levels, although not in school league tables, the Government said last week. Mr Bangs said it would also still be possible for the media to collect and publish school-by-school teacher assessment data at KS3.

Ministers have said they want more regular reporting to parents on their children's progress in the early secondary years, based on teacher assessment judgments.

Mr Bangs added: "It's obvious there is major unfairness with the tests being retained in primary schools. There will now be a huge focus from the media and the Government on performance in Year 6. Who would be a primary teacher?"

Primary teachers and campaigners are gearing up to start a new campaign against the KS2 tests.

The Anti-Sats alliance, a group of teachers and authors that was formed five years ago to call for the abolition of the national tests, has launched a new petition against the KS2 Sats. It is also planning a meeting in London next month.

Meanwhile, a leading head suggested many schools would react to the decision by introducing a two-year KS3, to allow pupils to spend three years on GCSE courses, or start sixth form studies early.

Andy Buck, partnership headteacher at the Eastbrook-Jo Richardson partnership in Barking and Dagenham, east London, said: "Over the past few years, some schools have also decided to create a two-year KS3 and have started GCSEs and vocational courses in Year 9. "Many like us, however, have been reluctant to do so because of the potential consequence for Sats results.

"Now that the tests have been scrapped, it's less of a risk."

However, Mr Buck said there were "hidden dangers" to this move, because the Sats provided information that helped schools understand the levels that pupils had reached.

Schools should therefore proceed cautiously in deciding how to replace them, he said.

David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, said a widespread move towards a two-year KS3 would have "serious consequences".

"This would tighten the grip of GCSE league tables on secondary education. It would also mean that many pupils - perhaps as many as a third - will not be doing a humanities subject for more than two years in secondary."

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