Eighty per cent of state and independent schools will undertake the controversial key stage 3 tests this year, despite the Government axing the exams in October.
Jim Knight, the schools minister, revealed that 3,346 secondaries out of 4,158 had ordered one or more KS3 tests for 2009. He was replying to a parliamentary question from David Laws, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, this week.
Mr Laws described the statistic as "surprising" in the light of the Government's decision to abandon the exams. "The figures for this year's test participation may be this high because the Government left it so late to announce the abolition of the tests," he said. "Many schools may have felt that it was too late to turn their plans on their heads this year."
The statutory tests for every 14-year-old in the country were abolished after more than 1 million children saw their results delayed following a series of blunders with the marking process last summer.
Some exam papers have only just been returned to schools this week. The debacle also saw the suspension of two high-profile figures: Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, and David Gee, managing director of the now disbanded National Assessment Agency.
Moreton School in Wolverhampton said it would still be using the tests this year, but said it had more freedom because Sats were no longer compulsory. Carl Williams, the deputy head, said: "Their removal has given schools more flexibility to utilise Sats in certain subjects. We can now be a bit more creative and start GCSE coursework earlier, as well as push forward our brighter students. The Sats paper gives us a stopgap for this year, but next year it will be more our own exam."
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said another reason for schools ordering the tests was that they were still suitable for certain subjects. "Maths and science were never as controversial as English, so teachers may see them as an appropriate end-of-year exam," he said.
Time constraints on Sats, page 10
A RECENT HISTORY
2007 February: ETS wins contract to run marking of key stage 3 tests
2008 May: Markers complain about confusion over training, delayed contracts and jammed helplines
July: It emerges that results, expected in August, will be delayed
August: Government asks Lord Sutherland to undertake an inquiry.
October: Teachers, unions and schools celebrate as Ed Balls announces the Government has scrapped KS3 tests from 2009
December: Sutherland report leads to suspension of QCA chief executive Ken Boston and NAA managing director David Gee.