Government bows to Bew review and scraps writing test
The writing test for English primary school children will be scrapped in 2013, after the Westminster Government accepted all the recommendations of an independent inquiry.
The test will be replaced by teacher assessment and a spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary test - a key recommendation of the Bew review of key stage 2 (P4-7) assessment.
Reading and maths tests will remain, but league tables will be reformed to show pupil progress as well as attainment, the Department for Education said.
The changes will be phased in, with some alterations to league tables beginning this year.
But a move to put in place an interim system for writing next year, which will use external testing alongside teacher assessment, has angered some, especially after hundreds of complaints about the quality of marking this year.
Tony Draper, head of Water Hall Primary in Milton Keynes, said: "Having had experience of appalling marking this year, I think waiting until 2013 is totally unacceptable. It doesn't need two years to get rid of something that just isn't working.
"A lot of schools will be incandescent with rage if they push forward with doing a writing test again next year in the way it has been done in the past few years."
The review of the testing system came after a boycott of the tests in 2010 by heads' union the NAHT and the NUT, which was backed by almost a quarter of primary school headteachers.
Heads decided not to go ahead with a boycott in 2011, pending the outcome of the Bew review. Its publication last month was generally welcomed as a "first step", although concerns remain.
NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: "We have three problems: the spelling, punctuation and grammar test, the speed of implementation, and whether the spirit of the report will be kept.
"We don't see the need for a new spelling, punctuation and grammar test. A lot of members don't see the need for external tests in writing next year, especially with all the problems with the writing test this year.
"The report says a lot of good things about progress and broad measures in the league tables, but a lot will depend on the spirit in which it's accepted."
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: "It is disappointing that although teachers will be trusted with assessing writing, the Government feels the need for a separate test to be introduced for grammar and punctuation.
"The positive steps in this review will be undermined by keeping in place school performance tables, despite the fact that the majority of those who gave evidence called for their abolition."
The Government said it would implement the recommendations as quickly as possible, but establishing a system of teacher moderation would take time. The tables will include an overall English measure as well as, for the first time, separate reading and writing results.
2011: League tables will include attainment and progress of pupils on free school meals and looked-after children compared with other pupils.
2011: Reading and writing test results published as soon as possible after league tables.
2012: Level 6 tests, reintroduced this year as optional exams, will be externally marked and taken on a specified date.
2012: Changes to the tables include rolling averages, additional progress and attainment measures, and attainment and progress by gender.
2013: Writing skills test introduced.
2013: Teacher assessment of writing composition.