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Welsh wary of Sats abolition

Recommendations that testing at key stages 2 and 3 should be abolished throughout Wales have been met with caution from tea-chers who are uncertain about the practicalities of the move.

This week a task force presented its interim report to the Welsh Assembly, recommending that testing at KS2 should be replaced with skills tests in Year 5 and teacher assessment in Year 6.

It also called for the abolition of testing at KS3. Welsh Conservatives said the tests should remain and secondary league tables should be published.

But teachers have been more enthusiastic. Gwen Williams, head of Edwardsville infants, in Merthyr Tydfil, said: "This is a positive move. We hope it will stop teachers teaching to the test, which narrows the curriculum.

"But I hope Year 5 tests won't be Sats by another name. There needs to be some assessment, but not the soul-destroying allocation of a number to a child."

David Bright, head of Llantarnam comprehensive, in Torfaen, said: "To work, the new assessment arrangements have to be less bureaucratic, and distort teaching practice less than current tests."

Unions have also responded ambiguously to the decision to retain testing at KS2. It had been widely anticipated that these tests would be abolished entirely.

John Bangs, head of education for the National Union of Teachers, said:

"I'm not sure how many cheers I give it. Running through the document is a commitment that test results will not be used to judge teachers. But I hope skills tests won't be a high-stakes way of monitoring schools."

And David Reynolds, professor of education at Exeter university, is wary of the decision to abolish tests at KS3.

While Welsh pupils equal or better their English counterparts at key stages 1 and 2, they do considerably worse at KS3.

Professor Reynolds said: "I think it was slightly unwise to abolish testing before we understand more about the problems at KS3. I would have waited a year or two. But mine is a minority opinion."

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