Trust returns at seven

17th September 2004 at 01:00
'Teacher assessment is robust and we have confidence in the profession' says minister. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

The Government put its faith in teachers this week with new testing arrangements for seven-year-olds.

Stephen Twigg, an education minister, announced the existing regime of national tests would make way for teacher assessment following a pilot in thousands of primaries this summer.

"We are putting all our faith and trust in teachers," he said. "The trials have shown that teacher assessment is robust and we have confidence in the profession.

"These changes combine the best of both worlds."

Mr Twigg, who has responsibility for early years, said teachers had convinced him to dilute the testing arrangements at key stage 1 in favour of teacher assessment.

Although the Government had initially insisted that tests were here to stay, he denied that ministers were doing a U-turn, saying that they had responded positively to the concerns of the profession.

Under the changes, seven-year-olds will still be expected to complete the national tests in English and maths.

However, teachers can decide when and how to administer them and the results will no longer be published separately from an overall teacher assessment of the pupil's progress.

Results by local authority will continue to be published, and parents will be entitled to see their child's results.

The overhaul follows trials in 4,700 primaries this summer. Mr Twigg said the pilots had proved a huge success.

"We have decided this will be the system for all schools from this academic year," he said. "In practice it will mean more flexibility for the schools and for the teacher.

"We are not abolishing the tests - they will continue to be the tools that teachers use for assessing their pupils' progress.

"We have responded positively to widely-raised concerns about the impact of testing on seven-year-olds. We will still have the information about how well each child is doing but we will not have such a strong focus on testing."

The changes were welcomed by teaching unions and educationists.

John Coe, of the National Association for Primary Education, said: "The pressure of testing at seven-plus was affecting even four-year olds coming through the system. These changes will raise standards at key stage 1 and at the foundation stage.

"Once the general election is over we shall resume our campaign for similar changes at key stage 2."

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"Trusting teachers to provide results from their assessments rather than requiring them to rely on tests is a major step forward.

"The logic must be for the Government to draw on the experience of Wales and Scotland and move towards further reform of end-of-key-stage testing and assessment in all schools."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Trust has been given back to teachers. The new arrangements will go a long way to meet the concerns of parents and teachers about excessive pressure placed upon pupils at such an early stage."

Gwen Evans, assistant general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "What has been proved is a child's learning achievements can be more reliably assessed in normal classroom conditions. No longer will capable seven-year-olds decide that they will fail forever, having done badly in Sats tests."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the Government was wrong not to extend the overhaul of tests to key stage 3.

He said: "Maths and science tests for 14-year-olds have caused little controversy, but KS3 English tests have never been satisfactory and this year's marking fiasco further shook confidence in them."

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