This is no way to assess our pupils

25th April 2008 at 01:00
A few years ago, I worried that our school was becoming a Sats factory and teaching too much along the lines of, "What Sats level will it produce at the end of key stage 2?" rather than, "Is it education that is creative, exciting and engaging for our children?"

A few years ago, I worried that our school was becoming a Sats factory and teaching too much along the lines of, "What Sats level will it produce at the end of key stage 2?" rather than, "Is it education that is creative, exciting and engaging for our children?"

We quickly abandoned the former approach on the understanding that if we were bored witless teaching, then the children must be bored witless learning. That we were right to do so is supported by our curriculum being rated "outstanding" by Ofsted in 2007.

We might be forgiven for thinking: "Great, we've cracked it." But unfortunately we just can't abandon the time spent on ensuring that children understand how to access the tests, and so do not underachieve because they are unfamiliar with them.

A colleague in an "outstanding" school recently bemoaned the fact that in order to keep results up, she had to abandon most of the curriculum in Year 6 until after May in order to be sure pupils are at their peak of performance. This is not unusual in my experience.

Given the above, I was fascinated to read recently that a government minister suggested that we do not have the most tested children in the world. Possibly not, but clearly he did not take into consideration the time schools spend practising for them.

In 2004, David Miliband, then schools minister, put great emphasis on personalised learning. It is a great idea if it means children can be creative, independent learners, and the curriculum is matched to their needs and accurately assessed; but not if it is located within the test- driven approach that currently fits them to it.

Will the advent of twice-yearly tests "when they are ready" be any better? We will have to wait and see.

We all accept that we should be held to account for the quality of children's learning and progress in our schools. But the reliance of inspectors on the contents of Raise Online as the main judgement of a school's performance means that teaching with one eye on maximising test results is inevitable.

I wonder how long it will be before the Government saves itself millions of pounds by abandoning the need for school improvement partners (SIPs) and Ofsted, and by adding a sentence to Raise Online, such as: "Whoopee, your CVA tells us you are outstanding." Or: "As your results are below the floor targets, you are closed for business."

Think of the added bonus if a number of SIPs and Ofsted inspectors, on finding themselves available, decided to go and work in schools. It would solve the recruitment crisis at a stroke.

Sue Robinson, Headteacher of Cherry Orchard School in Birmingham.

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