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Exclusive: Sats reform could threaten future of infant schools

Closures and mergers of infant schools have led to a drop in numbers by about 25 per cent in the past five years – and heads fear assessment reform will increase the trend

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Closures and mergers of infant schools have led to a drop in numbers by about 25 per cent in the past five years – and heads fear assessment reform will increase the trend

Fears are growing that a plan to reform primary assessment could jeopardise the future of England’s remaining infant schools.

Closures and mergers of infant schools have led to about a 25 per cent drop in numbers in the past five years, according to a Tes analysis.

Now, a proposal that on the face of it seems to be only good news for six- and seven-year-olds could result in infant schools being put further at risk, heads are warning.

They fear that about 88,000 Year 2 children in infant, or first, schools could still be expected to sit the tests that their primary school peers no longer have to take. And they believe that this “preposterous” and “ludicrous” development would threaten the very future of infant school.

The proposal to scrap testing of seven-year-olds was backed by 81 per cent of heads in a recent survey by the NAHT headteachers’ union on the government’s recommendations for rebooting primary assessment. But there are some who are furious that infant schools may still be expected to administer the tests.

“I think if parents thought their children were being tested, but down the road in an all-through primary normal life continued in Year 2, they are not going to pick our schools,” said Judy Shaw, head of Tuel Lane Infant School and Nursery in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire.

And it is not just attracting parents that infant school heads are worried about.

“It is a ludicrous suggestion,” said Kathryn Harper-Quinn, head of Hounslow Heath Infant and Nursery School in West London. “What about the impact on teachers? Would you teach in an infant school if you have to go through that workload?”

Alice Edgington, head of St Stephen’s Infant School in Canterbury, said: “The suggestion that schools that are not all-through primaries should have to administer key stage 1 Sats, while all-through primaries do not, is absolutely preposterous and ridiculous.”

The anomaly arises from the government’s attempt to reintroduce a baseline assessment that would judge children’s abilities at age 4.

This would be used as a starting point for measuring children’s progress between starting school and Year 6. But in infant and first schools, which do not have a Year 6, KS1 tests could remain as accountability measures.

“The most logical measures for infant schools would be Reception to key stage 1,” the consultation says. “This would mean that these schools would be judged on a different basis from all-through primary schools and so would need to be compared against each other.”

But unions are concerned at the implication that this could result in KS1 Sats remaining for already vulnerable infant schools.

“It is inherently unfair to suggest that a minority of pupils, attending schools which are not all-through primaries, will be required to undertake additional statutory assessments at the end of key stage 1,” says the NAHT in its consultation response. “Such a decision may also have an impact on admissions, particularly to infant schools.”

This is an edited article from 7 July edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here


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