Labour’s plan to abolish Sats wouldn’t be sensible because a strong primary education system needs to assess the quality of schools through testing, the chair of the exams and assessment regulator has said.
In an exclusive interview with Tes, Roger Taylor said that primary assessment was needed so the public could be “confident” that taxpayers’ money was being well spent.
However, he said this was his “personal view” and that Ofqual “does not get involved” in politics.
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Last month, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, announced that his party would abolish Sats, which currently take place at the end of key stages 1 and 2.
Should Sats be abolished?
Speaking at the NEU teaching union’s annual conference, he also said that Labour would scrap government plans to introduce a baseline assessment of pupils in their Reception year.
Mr Corbyn did not say what Labour would bring in as a replacement, but said the party would consult teaching unions, parents and experts and “bring forward proposals for a new system that separates the assessment of schools from the assessment of children”.
But the day after Labour's announcement, when Tes asked the Ofqual chair for his opinion on the policy, Mr Taylor suggested that abolishing Sats would not be a good idea.
“I do not think it is possible to deliver a high-performing primary education system, paid for by taxpayers, where citizens can be confident that the money is being well used to deliver good quality education for all young people, without assessing the performance of those schools and that does mean assessing the abilities of the children,” he said.
Mr Taylor went on: “Just to be really clear, the purpose here is not to assess the children, it is to do that in order to understand how the schools are doing in delivering education.
“I can’t see how we would have a high-performing education system and not have some mechanism to do that.”
Asked whether it was, therefore, sensible to get rid of Sats, Mr Taylor replied “no”.
But he added: “I should just stress again, from Ofqual’s point of view, [scrapping Sats] is a political decision, so that is a personal view of mine… Ofqual does not get involved in these kind of politics.”
If a “political decision was made” to abolish Sats, “then that’s how it would go”, he said.
A Labour spokesperson said: “It is vital that parents have confidence in our school system, but that is often not the case under the current assessment and accountability system.
“Labour will ensure that the performance of schools and children are assessed in a way that is more reliable, while avoiding teaching to the test and encouraging all schools to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum.”