Far from raising standards, years of these crude, expensive, dull, time-consuming, curriculum-distorting activities have coincided with a decline in the UK's international standing, particularly in reading and maths. The decline, in spite of what the tabloids say, is modest. This is partly because the UK's original baseline score was too high to begin with and partly because the number of countries taking part has changed. But it is real. No amount of spin can hide the fact that billions of pounds have been spent to little effect.
The Sats have lost all claim to validity. Even the Government is piloting an alternative. There should be no shilly-shallying, no halfway houses. The failed tests should be scrapped and the resources ploughed into books, teachers and librarians. In-service training should also go, and be replaced by real forums of discussion in which teachers learn how to improve their skills. The fall in standards is not yet a crisis. We must act before it becomes one.
Alan Gibbons, Authors Against the Sats, Liverpool.