Vorderman's report presents Gove with Sats conundrum

12th August 2011 at 01:00
Conservative party-commissioned report says Year 6 tests should be scrapped - after Bew review says they should stay

Sats tests at the end of primary school depress standards in maths by creating a culture of teaching to the test and should be scrapped, according to a report commissioned by the Conservative party.

The long-awaited report, led by television presenter Carol Vorderman, comes after the government-commissioned Bew review into testing recommended that the Year 6 tests remained - something that was accepted by the Government only last month.

Education secretary Michael Gove said in the foreword to the Vorderman report that her findings would be of "great help", but he offered no specific comment on the Sats issue.

Kathryn James, director of policy and campaigns at heads' union the NAHT, said that Ms Vorderman's report - A World-Class Mathematics Education for All Our Young People - acknowledged that the existing quality of teaching was not the issue.

"Rather it is the constraints placed on schools to deliver results that make easy headlines but which do little to help children learn - that is the problem," she said.

Rob Eastaway, co-author of Maths for Mums and Dads, said: "I've heard from primary teachers many times that key stage 2 Sats get in the way, they distract from what is being taught in primary schools and at a particularly critical age."

The Vorderman report also called for the current GCSE to be split into two and for pupils to continue studying some form of maths until 18 to address the problem of students being under-prepared for their degree courses.

But reforms in primary schools and to primary teacher education are essential because of the link between early achievement and later success, the report said.

It cited statistics that show that 57 per cent of those who achieved the expected level at the end of primary school went on to get a grade C in GCSE maths, compared to just 10 per cent of those who did not achieve this level.

The report, whose lead author was Roger Porkess, retired chief executive of Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI), states: "The key stage 2 Sat currently brings no benefit to the children who are taking it. Instead, the test sets up a conflict of interests between children and their schools.

"The children's interest is to develop their mathematical understanding continually, throughout their education; their school's interest is to maximise the number of children obtaining level 4 in the test. The two are not the same."

It points out that in the first year of secondary, children are retested for setting purposes - and one in three makes no progress.

The authors claim that Year 6 and Year 7 are therefore wasted for many children in terms of maths. Elsewhere it calls for primary teachers to be expected to have achieved grade B in GCSE maths.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the Government would not comment on the findings as the report was commissioned while the Conservatives were in opposition.

Carol's calculations

Recommended

- KS2 Sats should be scrapped.

- Maths should be made compulsory until 18.

- The present system for GCSE maths based on a single award is not fit for purpose and should be replaced by one offering two GCSEs as soon as possible.

- No changes should be made to the present AS and A-levels in maths and further maths in the short term.

- Lessons from international comparisons must be applied in the context of this country.

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