Is it time to throw a spanner into the Sats tests machine?

24th April 2009 at 01:00

Unsurprisingly, the government-appointed "expert" panel will not be recommending the abolition of national tests at 11 ("Expert group steers clear of Sats reform", April 17). However, its remit investigating how preparation for tests can be made proportionate and educationally appropriate does not rule out the possibility of retaining national tests in some form.

Here's an alternative context. Retain national assessments to provide information on individual children's attainment that would be reported, not school by school, but only to parents individually and confidentially.

Administer the national assessments twice in a child's primary career - once on a one-to-one, informal basis at the end of Year 1 (followed where necessary by programmes of "reading recovery" and "number recovery") and once through tests at the end of Year 5 (followed, where necessary, by more remedial or more challenging work to be provided in Year 6).

Since the results would not be published, this would avoid excessive "teaching to the test". Regular inspections - reporting on the quality of education, not test performance - would provide a complementary form of whole-school accountability.

But could a government-appointed panel have the courage and imagination to propose such an alternative?

Professor Colin Richards, Spark Bridge, Cumbria.

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