The debate over SATs intensified this week when the Conservatives announced that they would ‘scrap’ primary school SATs for 11 year olds.
At first glance this sounds like dramatic news, and a great victory for those who have long campaigned for the abolition of SATs. However the announcement does not mean the end of testing.
In their place an incoming Conservative Government would instead introduce testing for pupils in Year 7 (the 1st year of secondary school) which would be assessed by teachers.
So, how has the Government, teachers and their unions responded to these proposals?
Firstly the new Schools Minister, Vernon Coaker described the proposals as “half-baked”, and a “huge step backwards”.
The main argument is that as a result of the SATs being taken in Year 7 this would remove accountability from primary schools. This means it would not be possible to see how well an individual primary school had performed, this would also mean that parents would not know how well their local school was performing. Politically this is particularly significant as SATs and League tables were introduced, by a Conservative Government partly to make schools accountable and so that parents could make ‘informed decisions’ when choosing a school for their child.
According to BBC News some teachers’ unions have given “qualified support” to the proposals. To some extent this is true according to the Unions themselves.
In response to the proposals, the NUT, which is planning to boycott next years SATs, have described plans to ‘free up’ Year 6 pupils from testing as an “improvement” but this does not appear to amount to an endorsement of Conservative Proposals as they describe plans to move the tests to Year 7 as “flawed and totally unacceptable”.
Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL does not appear to give “qualified support” either when she states that
“The Tories’ proposals are akin to moving deckchairs on the Titanic”
She goes on to claim that moving the tests to Year 7 does noting to remove the testing burden on pupils and teachers, calling for fewer tests and a more engaging curriculum.
The NASUWT is not supporting the boycott of next year’s SATs but neither does it appear to welcome the Conservatives proposals.
It has claimed that:
“The implications for primary and secondary school teachers are appalling”
They point to the increased and imposed burden on secondary school teachers, and the fact the performance of primary schools will be in the hand of primary schools.
In contrast, the NAHT welcomes the “innovative thinking behind the announcement” but stops short of a wholehearted endorsement, as it looks “forward to discussing this proposal in depth”.