Primary Sats debate and a question of accountability

15th May 2009 at 01:00

Last week's editorial ("Even if Sats go, accountability must stay") asserted that "the profession cannot afford to embrace any argument that suggests schools should not be accountable to the public".

Yet no one engaged seriously with the debate over test-driven schooling has been arguing for an end to accountability. The question has instead been whether the current accountability system promotes or undermines good teaching. If the latter, clearly it needs serious reform.

The unions considering a boycott of tests do not suggest just closing their classrooms to public scrutiny, but replacing test data with that provided by teacher assessment.

Pressure has grown on the Government over testing, not because ministers have felt the force of teachers' need to hide from accountability, but because organisations have been criticising the effects of the testing regime on educational grounds.

Thus the science tests went last week because bodies, including the Royal Society, the Wellcome Trust, the Association for Science Education and, indeed, Ofsted, have argued that pupils spent too much time being prepared in Year 6 for written tests of one and two-mark questions, when the subject embraces more than this. These organisations have welcomed the end of the tests, despite the apparent retreat from test-driven accountability it implies.

The future of English and maths tests may now be influenced by whether parents think they help their children. Educational arguments should be given just as much weight as the political and ideological posturing which has scarred our schools.

Warwick Mansell, Author, 'Education by Numbers: the Tyranny of Testing'.

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