Who benefits from primary SATs? Not English children
This year nearly 40% of children in their last year at primary school have been told they did not reach the ‘expected standard’ in Key Stage 2 SATs. Last year it was nearly 50%.
Schools Week quotes Schools Minister Nick Gibb. He says the improved results were ‘testament to the hard work of teachers and pupils across England’ who had showed commitment to the ‘new knowledge rich curriculum’.
But SATs don’t test the wider curriculum, knowledge rich or otherwise. They focus on reading, writing, maths and SPAG: spelling, punctuation and (pedantic) rules of grammar. This risks ‘teaching to the test’. The Education Select Committee in April 2017 received evidence that KS2 SATs led to curriculum narrowing.
Children in Year 6 do not benefit when other subjects are squeezed or marginalised.
And 40% of children at the end of Year 6 do not benefit from being told they have ‘failed’ to reach the expected standard and aren’t ‘secondary ready’.
The only purpose of SATs is to rank schools in league tables. The Education Select Committee recognised that the accountability system is responsible for ‘many of the negative effects’ listed in its report: England’s ‘high-stakes system does not improve teaching and learning at primary school alone.’
We are now in the ridiculous position where a system mandated by the government actually reduces the quality of education at the end of primary school. This is unacceptable. Mandatory KS2 tests should be scrapped. They have no educational value.
That’s not to say that schools shouldn’t be held accountable but accountability should be based on education quality not test-measured quantity.
If governments want to discover whether the national education system in England is delivering then this can be done by sampling and by Ofsted concentrating more on what actually happens in schools and less on data. Head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, said inspectors would be concentrating on the curriculum offered by schools in future inspections. This is a step in the right direction.
The English education system can cope without SATs. Assessment of children is ‘More than a Score’. And assessment of children should serve the interests of children not the interests of politicians.
POST SCRIPT One headteacher, Jill Wood, refused to allow her Y6 pupils to take this year’s SAT papers. She took them on a day trip to Whitby instead. A day at the seaside instead of sitting SATs. Jill explains why she boycotted the tests here.