Still testing 7-year-olds

19th August 2005 at 01:00
Why did key stage 1 teachers fail to use their freedom to opt out of the much-criticised test regime? Helen Ward reports.

At least seven out of 10 primary teachers in England decided not to change the way they test seven-year-olds, despite being given more flexibility this year.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, suggested schools might have decided not to drop formal testing because they feared the reaction of inspectors.

She said: "I suspect a root cause is the inspection regime, which strips teachers and headteachers of their confidence to make professional judgements and deviate from what they perceive as the accepted norm."

The National Assessment Agency (NAA) will now investigate whether teachers feel under pressure to stick with the more formal testing regime.

This year, for the first time, all Year 2 teachers could choose to use either the 2004 or 2005 test papers, when they tested pupils and could also decide the number of tests they took (see box). The new arrangements were introduced after growing anger at the burden of tests on young children.

But interim results from the NAA, which runs the tests, show that between 70 and 85 per cent of teachers used this year's papers and most still tested in summer. This year's KS1 writing test asked pupils to list what they liked about school. Last year's asked pupils to describe a fun day out.

A spokeswoman for the NAA said: "The majority of teachers chose to administer the 2005 tests. This could be for a number of reasons, including the appeal of the subject material, and the fact the tests were new and interesting. It may also be the case that teachers were not fully at ease with the flexibility of being able to use either the 2004 or the 2005 tests."

The agency's findings are based on a survey of 750 schools by the National Foundation for Educational Research. They mirror research from a pilot project, involving 4,700 schools, trying out the more flexible regime.

Leeds university researchers found a large majority of teachers were happy to have the flexibility of choice and timing, but most still went on to use the new tests rather than past papers.

The results of the tests will be announced next week.

Last year 85 per cent of seven-year-olds reached the expected level 2 in reading, 82 per cent in writing and 90 per cent in maths.

* The KS2 results are also due to be announced on Tuesday. A TES survey earlier this year predicted they would rise to 79 per cent reaching the expected level 4 in English and 76 per cent in maths.

* helen.ward@tes.co.uk

How has KS1 changed?

* Teachers this year could use either the 2004 or 2005 tasks and tests

* The tasks and tests could be done at any time during the year

* Only teachers' assessments are reported

* Tasks are optional for children whom a teacher judges to be working towards level 1

* Teachers did not need to give more than one task or test to children in each core subject

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