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Teachers must stick to broad curriculum

The government is to advise schools not to spend too long preparing pupils for tests, it said this week in response to the Commons' Children, Schools and Families select committee's year-long inquiry into testing.

Despite Ofsted's comments this week, ministers insisted there was no reason for any school to teach to the test, that excessive test preparation was "unacceptable" and that most schools did not do it.

It also appeared to blame teachers for any narrowing of the curriculum in the run-up to the tests. "The breadth of the curriculum and the quality of teaching are both entirely within the control of the school and the teacher," it said.

However, Barry Sheerman, the Labour chairman of the committee, took the unusual step of issuing a press release in response, accusing ministers of missing the point.

His committee's report, published in May, agreed there should be some form of national testing, but argued the current regime was suffering from systemic problems.

Mr Sheerman said the Government is unwilling to concede that teaching to the test is a widespread problem despite all the significant evidence the committee heard.

Ministers also responded to a recommendation from the committee that they should conduct an inquiry into teaching to the test, saying they would "consider how best to gather further evidence".

Paul Holmes, a Liberal Democrat member of the committee and former teacher, accused the Government of ostrich-like complacency.

- Private schools have welcomed a government decision to abandon plans for Ofsted to regulate them.

Ministers said last year that they wanted the schools inspectorate to take over registering and regulating all independent and non-maintained special schools in England.

But independent school heads said registration should continue to be carried out by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The Independent Schools Inspectorate checks members of the Independent Schools Council, which represents 1,300 schools. It is already validated by Ofsted. Heads at fee-paying schools had reacted angrily to news that this was set to change, accusing ministers of "creeping regulation".

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