Is there to be no let-up in the witch-hunt on teachers by England's education secretary Michael Gove and his acolyte Sir Michael Wilshaw? To this end, the schools inspectorate Ofsted is being used as an overt political instrument to manipulate data for maximum soundbite effect and, sadly, sections of the media are lapping it up. Fact: the attempt to link primary exit grades at level 5 and low performance by students at GCSE is a nonsense. Fact: level 5 is at the midpoint of the secondary curriculum for 12- to 14-year-olds (which covers levels 3-7) and if primary teachers were able to teach their own curriculum with depth rather than sample the tested aspects, the achievement of level 5 would be creditable and represent learning. However, primary teachers are mandated to achieve level 5 through scores on a Year 6 (10- to 11-year-old) test - not on a student's continuously assessed progress over the primary stage. As this test is based on those identifiable testable items it is prepared for meticulously, rigorously and, sadly, to the detriment of the breadth of experience that students were expected to be exposed to during their primary years. In short, the level 5 performance that is being used as a stick to beat secondary schools by Mr Gove and Sir Michael is a chimera.
Professor Bill Boyle, Chair of educational assessment, School of Education, University of Manchester.