Primary Sats tests to stay, but league tables could disappear

15th May 2009 at 01:00
Long-awaited expert group report will disappoint test abolitionists

Primary pupils in England will continue to take Sats tests following strong backing from the Westminster Government's expert group on assessment. But the advisers have called for league tables to be replaced by school report cards.

The long-awaited report recommends the abolition of national key stage 2 science tests and moving Sats from the second week in May to the middle of June.

But the group concluded that removing all externally-marked tests for 11- year-olds in favour of teacher assessment would "represent a step backwards, both for pupils' learning and for school accountability".

Some English teachers' leaders, lobbying for test abolition, had placed great faith in the report. Its conservative conclusion, predicted by TES England last month, will disappoint many.

Ministers are expected to accept the findings, putting them on a collision course with the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT). They question how league tables can be abolished if tests remain and say the measures will do nothing to dissuade them from balloting for a Sats boycott next year.

"It is whistling in the wind to say league tables will be replaced if we are still going to test every child at the end of key stage two in June," Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said.

The experts recommend the introduction of a new test in the first year of secondary to check if pupils who leave primary school below national expectations have caught up.

The group want the primarysecondary transition to be improved with every pupil starting an extended project in primary school to be finished at secondary; all final-year primary pupils to spend a short period at the end of the summer term in the secondary they will attend in September; the introduction of primary graduation certificates.

They recommend a national sample testing system at the end of Year 9 to monitor standards, which sounds similar to the Scottish Survey of Achievement, following the abolition of key stage 3 Sats for 14-year-olds. Also, teacher assessment is not robust and consistent enough to replace externally-marked tests and should be strengthened through more coverage in teacher training, the group says.

The group, which includes Sir Jim Rose, who led the primary curriculum review in England, and Sir Tim Brighouse, former London schools commissioner, calls on ministers to "actively promote" the report card and to use it to replace league tables "as soon as is practically possible".

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