Mixed feelings as Sats come to end

13th May 2005 at 01:00
Year 9 pupil Harley Watson has been neglecting his kayaking lately. The 14-year-old, among the last batch of Welsh pupils to sit compulsory key stage 3 exams this week before they are phased out, has spent most of his spare time revising while his kayak gathers dust.

Normally a keen paddler, Harley, who attends Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn, Newcastle Emlyn, has put white-water trips down the nearby River Teifi on hold as he attempts to navigate his way through KS3.

And while acknowledging it has not been an easy passage, he is convinced that the impending demise of tests could lead to troubled waters ahead.

"There has been a lot of pressure, but these exams are a good way to get good grades," said Harley, who wants to become a solicitor.

"Teachers make out they are horrible but they are really not so bad. The idea of abolishing them is silly because it will mean more coursework over the years.

"Kids will have less time for themselves outside school - and I think it's important that they can do what they like because we have enough homework already."

The axe may be poised to fall on Sats in favour of a new system of moderated teacher assessment being developed by ACCAC, the Welsh qualifications, curriculum and assessment authority. But veteran science teacher Ced Davies, who has taught at the school for 29 years, will be sorry to see them go.

"It's a good closure to the key stage," he argued. "It's good that exams are marked externally because that cuts out bias. They give the kids some kudos and it is also the only informal exam they have before their GCSEs.

"We have a namby-pamby approach towards exposing our children to any kind of stress, when a lot of them clearly thrive on it."

Rhian Dunn, head of Welsh, does not believe in Sats - "you cannot fatten a pig by weighing it all the time" - but has concerns about what might replace them.

"ACCAC is looking for a portfolio of work for every pupil in every subject.

I think that means a lot of extra work for teachers and some of us will not be able to cope."

John Valentine Williams, ACCAC's chief executive, said its work on accrediting school procedures for moderating teacher assessment was "well on target".

"We have made it perfectly clear that, leaving aside the obvious rise in workload which is inevitable whenever a new system is put in, the amount of work involved when it is finally embedded should be no different."

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