Polls performer Clegg pledges Sats shake-up to cut stress

30th April 2010 at 01:00
Lib Dem leader says party would abolish external assessments - as English unions vote for boycott

Liberal democrat leader Nick Clegg has vowed to cut the external assessment in Sats tests due to the "stress and anxiety" they cause pupils in England, should his party help to form the next Government.

Mr Clegg's words came in the same week that teachers' leaders down south, the NUT and heads' union the NAHT called a boycott on administering the key stage 2 tests, which are due to be taken in the week starting May 10.

The Lib Dem leader enjoyed a surge in popularity, following an impressive performance in the first of three live TV debates. And his stance on Sats and increasing the use of teacher assessment is likely to have raised his profile further among English teachers ahead of the May 6 poll.

Mr Clegg told The TES that although he opposes the idea of a Sats boycott, his party would pledge to reform the current model with the long-term aim of "fewer tests".

"All parties are agreed that we don't want to see a boycott of these examinations - I wouldn't want to see children's education disrupted," he said. "But there is a bigger issue here, which is: what is the long-term solution?

"These exams clearly don't have the confidence of many teachers. And that's not hugely surprising when you hear all the stories of 11-year-olds being stressed and anxious over them, and when you think there are children spending more time practising exam techniques than learning creatively."

Mr Clegg added: "So the Liberal Democrats will scale back these tests, relying more on teachers' assessment of their pupils, with some external moderation. The aim has to be fewer tests, with more accurate marking."

He said his party was the only one with a "fully costed plan" on how to help teachers do their job, while pumping an additional pound;2.5 billion into schools each year.

As with his counterparts, the Lib Dem leader has signalled that cuts will be necessary elsewhere in the Department for Children, Schools and Families, but added that his party had gone a step further in setting out their proposals.

"We've gone much further on the detail of our policies than either of them, especially on the numbers, because we're serious about delivering on the commitments we make," he said.

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