The only careers these results will affect are those of the ministers

15th August 2008 at 01:00

The thoughts that occupy my mind when I am wading through my key stage three pupils' English work tend to be along the lines of "she's used some ambitious words, but can't spell them." Or "I can see the case for Beatrice being `a bit of a bitch', but he hasn't given any evidence."

So I was interested to see what ministers felt the purpose of that work was when they announced the key stage 3 Sats results.

It turned out that all the extra classes for Year 9 students, all the time I spent poring over the level criteria trying to relate it to a 13-year- old's outpourings - all that was leading up to a press conference where schools minister Jim Knight bombarded us with charts and statistics.

Among other things, he told us that insufficient progress from ages 11-14 could be attributed to "the Year 8 dip". I was glad to know that what I had experienced over the last few months in some Year 8 lessons had an official euphemism.

Mr Knight was funny and persuasive when talking about the children's literature he enjoyed. I got the impression he valued learning. Nice to know, given that we have had education ministers who seem to think learning for learning's sake is a bit dodgy.

Most of my students do too much describing, not enough explaining. In the press conference, the reverse felt true - flimsy statistical changes came undera huge weight of analysis. Is a two percentage point drop in a relatively subjective reading test sufficient evidence to declare a reading crisis?

Buried among the stats was the caveat: "small year on year changes should not necessarily be considered to be significant." Had anyone read that?

Ultimately, I was still left wondering who the tests were for. No employer or university will ever ask my Year 9 pupils what they got in their Sats.

Jim Knight, Ed Balls and Ken Boston seem much more concerned about this year's test scores. But the only careers these results will affect are their own.

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