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Sat is your lot - or maybe not

This week, teachers in Wales bid a not-so-fond farewell to the end of key stage tests. Welsh Year 9s took their last compulsory Sats, ending a 15-year era of national exams at seven, 11 and 14. They were scrapped for KS1 in 2002 and last year for KS2. A TES Cymru poll earlier this year showed Welsh teachers overwhelmingly in favour of the change.

So their colleagues across the border in England, especially those outraged at what they see as another KS3 English test fiasco last week, will be baffled to learn that more than half of Welsh Y6 teachers are testing their pupils even though they do not have to.

And some secondary teachers - and pupils - oppose the abolition of KS3 tests (see story page 3). What is going on? Ced Davies, of Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn in Carmarthenshire sees it as "a good closure to the key stage" and a chance to practise for GCSEs and he remarks: "We have a namby-pamby approach towards exposing our children to any kind of stress, when a lot of them clearly thrive on it."

Not so teachers, many of whom are worried about what sort of pressure moderated teacher assessment, which replaces formal testing, will bring.

And primary teachers are doubtless anxious about how much work the new skills tests for Y5 will entail.

It seems that Sats are a hard habit to break. For years, many schools have been geared towards Y6 test preparation and data collection. Since Y6 tests are optional this year, with free external marking, many schools must be thinking, "why not?" The pressure is off, and the information might come in handy. While some revel in the liberation, there is a silent majority of schools still wanting guidance and support. After all, samizdat copies of England's national literacy strategy are to be found in many a Welsh primary staffroom.

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