It's time to let the Sats fade away

14th April 2006 at 01:00
The Government now has the perfect excuse to scrap the key stage 1 Sats, and Ruth Kelly should seize the moment. The new literacy and maths frameworks have moved the goalposts; skills which used to be taught in Year 3 will now be covered in Y2, when children take the tests (see page 1).

Clearly, Ms Kelly wants to boost results at the end of key stage 1 but the changes are also likely to skew the value added measures which show the gains children make during key stage 2, at least for a few years. And she surely does not want to anger and discourage heads and teachers in junior schools if their 11-year-olds appear to make less progress.

The purpose of the proposed revisions is to raise achievement throughout primary school and reach national targets for English and maths at 11. That is, of course, what the Government appointed Capita, which took over the strategies last year, to do.

The idea is that, by introducing key goals such as times tables, phonics and other spelling rules earlier, infant children will have a better foundation upon which to build more advanced learning. The final goals for 11-year-olds remain broadly the same, but every other age-group will be accelerated.

Most children will accommodate the changes, though some teachers may chafe at new demands. But the new arrangements offer much greater flexibility.

The literacy hour structure is being abandoned, and the frameworks have been slimmed down and organised more coherently. The goals are set out year by year, rather than term by term. However, pacier lessons for the early years and greater freedom for teachers could be undermined if Y2 teachers feel pressured to teach to the tests. Now that Primary Strategy director Paul Wagstaff has sanctioned the withering away of the literacy hour, the same could be done for formal assessment at seven.

When the Sats were introduced in 1990, they were supposed to be an interim measure. Sixteen years is enough.

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