Politicians hijacked useful Sats

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Colin Doctor's article "Why we must learn to love Sats" (TES, February 24) misses the point.

Good quality standardised tests and tasks are indeed a helpful diagnostic tool. Teachers originally welcomed them because they were intended to help plan the next step in a child's learning. They provided useful information for pupils, parents and teachers.

Sadly, the politicians hijacked the original Sats: they became the indicator of the success or otherwise of government policy and at the same time pitted school against school in a league table of winners and losers.

Rather than being used flexibly and as a launch pad for future learning, they became a stopping point in children's education.

In a successful testing regime the best learning takes place immediately after a test, prompted by what emerges from the assessment process.

Yet Year 6 children who are helped to move forward from below level 4 to above by the end of the summer term, are branded illiterate by politicians and the national press because they failed their Sats in May. In the original test system such progress would have been celebrated as a successful outcome of ongoing assessment.

The Ofsted Panda document is another example how diagnostic information about an individual child's performance is misused. Instead of this information being used promptly to help personalise learning, data from a few mornings in May is over-interpreted for months.

Mr Doctor has misunderstood the argument. Good diagnostic tasks and tests do help children learn because they involve them in assessing their own progress, so they know what they need to do. Good teaching has always done this. It is league tables, not tests, that are wrong.

Matthew Hiley Headteacher, Westbourne primary school, Anton Crescent Collingwood Road Sutton, Surrey

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