Hidden marking task mars Sats being ditched

Teacher leader warns that while KS3 tests are over, staff are now on a bureaucratic paper trail

Warwick Mansell

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Teachers' workloads will soar in many schools after the Government scrapped key stage 3 tests for 14-year-olds, a trade union leader warned this week.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, wants a national protocol on the assessment systems that are being put in the place of Sats to stop them becoming an "excessive and bureaucratic paper trail" that could put hours on working weeks.

The union's concerns carry historical parallels, as its protests about workload in the 1990s led to the introduction of the current national testing regime as a replacement for teacher assessment.

Ms Keates said teachers were reporting that the Government's unexpected ditching of the Sats last month and associated moves to increase teacher assessment have serious unintended consequences.

Headteachers were insisting, she said, that teachers still set a Sats- style end-of-year test for Year 9 pupils. But instead of sending the assessments away to be marked, as has happened under Sats, they have to mark them themselves.

And staff were still having to mark the Year 7 and 8 optional tests that many schools use, and put their Year 9 pupils in for mock Sats.

Ms Keates said: "We had no problem in principle with pulling one tier of Sats out of the system. Ideally it would free up time for teachers to be more innovative. The problem was that the Government in removing key stage 3 Sats did not make it clear what would be put in their place.

"So schools are still working to the KS3 targets, therefore doing the optional tests, the mocks and expecting teachers to do end-of-year-tests, too and mark them."

Ms Keates also criticised a new form of teacher assessment called Assessing Pupil Progress, promoted by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the National Strategies. This is designed to provide a more systematic basis for recording pupils' progress across different aspects of English and maths, with teachers filling in assessment grids.

It would be one way for schools to continue reporting pupils' levels now the KS3 tests have gone.

But Ms Keates said: "Teachers are spending a lot of time filling in forms that are not being used by them in the classroom, but are sitting in files somewhere in case someone comes in and questions it.

"Every exchange a teacher makes with a pupil has to be recorded in some way so you can refer back to it. Teachers are going to spend more time filling in assessment sheets than focusing on teaching and learning."

However, John Fairhurst, chair of the Association of School and College Leaders' education committee, said that improving the reliability of teacher assessment was vital.

He said: "Whether we liked it or not, in the past, the assumption was made that the tests were definitive and teacher assessment was not.

"Now the tests are not there, the emphasis has to be on ensuring that teacher assessment judgments are valid. But we have to ensure that whatever is developed to take the tests' place does not divert teachers from their central task: teaching pupils."

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Warwick Mansell

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