Letters extra: The SATs myth

28th November 2003 at 00:00
I too prefer facts to myths (David Miliband, TES, 14 November).

Fact 1: pound;27m was spent on setting, distributing and marking SATs this year. At the same time a thousand teachers and almost twice that number of Learning Support Assistants were made redundant. It is staff working in schools every day, not snapshot-tests at the end of a Key Stage, which truly "set national standards".

Fact 2: where they have them, other home-countries are getting rid of SATs. Look at Wales. Nor are Scotland and Northern Ireland rushing to bring SATs in.

Fact 3: SATs act to widen the attainment gap between higher and lower attainers. The Assessment Reform Group's research indicates what teachers know through experience: students receive SATs levels as judgements; low achievers become overwhelmed by assessments and de-motivated by constant evidence of their low achievement. They fail to make the progress which, in the absence of the SATs regime, they otherwise might.

Fact 4: When it comes to SATs, pilot schemes are a fraud. The history of the implementation of SATs in the 1990s shows liberal use of pilot schemes to attempt to circumvent or defuse opposition. I remember them well. Ultimately the over-testing regime was imposed willy-nilly.

Fact 5: in his speech announcing the changes to KS1 tests, the Secretary of State for Education stated quite clearly that "tests, targets and tables are here to stay." So much for dialogue.

Fact 6: in Charles Clarke's Norwich constituency, where I teach, 1,265 people have so far signed the NUT's anti-SATs petition. Opposition to the tests shows no sign of abating here or elsewhere. I know that NUT members will be doing what very many parents want when we vote to boycott the tests. Industrial action by teachers in this case is not only the material expression of reasoned argument; it has become after ten years and more of the educationally-impoverishing, de-skilling and for too many students physically-damaging experience of SATs a moral imperative.

Patrick Yarker
President, Norwich and District NUT

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