Schools that drill their pupils and “wind children up to fear and anxiety about tests” will be penalised, the chief inspector warned today, as thousands of children prepare to sit Sats tests this week.
Amanda Spielman hit out at schools that “teach to the test” and fail to offer a “rich education” including art, sport and music because of an obsessive focus on achieving high exam scores.
In an interview with The Sunday Times ahead of the launch on Tuesday of a new inspection framework for measuring school quality, Ms Spielman said that the aim was to stamp out a narrow “teaching-to-the-test culture” that has grown up around Sats.
The editor’s view: Sats are formal tests. Let’s not pretend they aren’t
At one primary school surveyed by Ofsted, children had practised Sats test papers in English and maths every week for the past two years. At others, practice papers were taken from the age of 8.
The framework, which will be used by inspectors from the autumn to rank schools on a four-point scale, will see Ofsted promote the importance of curriculum through a new quality of education grade, which will replace pupils’ outcomes and teaching and learning as separate inspection judgements.
The change will move the focus of inspection away from just raw exam scores and towards what Ofsted describes as the real substance of education – the curriculum.
Ms Spielman said: “No child should be frightened of Sats. Or think their future depends on them. They should be seen as a reflection of a good education, not a definition of a good education. The point is not to wind children up to fear and anxiety about tests but the opposite.”
Ms Spielman said it was largely the way schools handled tests, rather than the tests themselves, that were to blame for making children anxious but admitted that over-testing was switching children off learning.
She added: “I do not want to hear about parties to celebrate the end of Sats [or intensive revision sessions]. It is easy to wind children up about tests. They should not be encouraged to think of them as a great hurdle.”
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, promised last month to abolish Sats for both 7- and 11-year-olds after reports of the pressure they put on children. The Conservatives want to keep Sats at 11 and bring in a new “baseline” test for four-year-olds starting school.