More Than A Score: New film and SATs round up

In More Than a Score’s latest campaign film hear from TES columnist and ex-head teacher Colin Harris about his SATs manifesto.

SATs week news round up:

Experts who advised on the development of the SPaG test now want reform
Michael Gove’s panel of experts who advised the government on placing greater emphasis on traditional grammar in its primary curriculum now have serious reservations about either the tests, or the curriculum development process.

The experts involved have disclosed that they had limited knowledge of primary education prior to developing the primary curriculum, and that they originally intended to develop a curriculum for secondary schools.

The focus on grammatical terminology has been criticised by academics as not based on good research that it helps children’s writing. Asked whether there was any evidence at the time that a greater emphasis on traditional grammar was developmentally appropriate for children Richard Hudson, advisory panel member and emeritus professor of linguistics at University College, London admitted

there was no evidence, and we were guessing”.

Gaby Hinsliff gives her view on the damage done by the government’s imposition of grammatical techniques:

Yet another report published calling for reform
Following on from reports published by the House of Commons Education Committee, the National Association and Headteachers, a review of assessment commissioned by education business Pearson has produced an interim report which casts further doubt on the primary assessment system.
The report, Testing the Water, has found:

  • Teachers do not feel their professional judgment is valued highly enough and they are concerned about the impact assessment is having on the curriculum.
  • Children with SEND are put at a disadvantage by an assessment system which does not recognise their capacities and needs.
  • Teachers are concerned about the dominance of assessment-for-accountability.
  • Teachers, parents, governors and pupils all feel anxiety over the impact of high stakes tests.
  • The concerns of government are prioritised over and above the needs of teachers and pupils.

Read the interim report:
Find more coverage in the TES:

Baseline assessment is not the solution to the problems with the current system of primary assessment
Writing in the TES Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, argues that we should not trade key stage 1 SATs for baseline assessment as the lesser of two eveils, allowing the high stakes system to stay in place.

“‘The use of value added scores as a key basis for high-stakes decisions is simply not justified by the evidence’, writes the Birmingham University researcher Thomas Perry. But the DfE will have none of this, and intends to press on regardless of criticism, and of evidence.
I would be very concerned if leaders of educational opinion opted for baseline, as a supposed softer alternative to statutory testing at KS1, without taking into account the consequences of such an acceptance. No-one should think that the forces of accountability will not stoop to using unreliable data to judge the work of schools… Why lend credence to these operations by endorsing an inherently problematic approach to progress measurement?”

Parents speak out on the impact of SATs
A primary school governor and parents of a year six child with autism explains how SATs impact on children and schools and distort the education.
This blog clearly explains how the current system of primary assessment uses children as a means to measure schools, and the pressure that this puts on all involved.

“SATS are the currency of primary assessment with which we have no option but to trade. I’ve lived the life of Chair of Governors of a Primary school. I know how hard it is to show progress at KS2 in a coastal town with significant pockets of deprivation. I know how hard my son’s school have worked to get [my son] to a place where he’s even able to sit still long enough to take a SATS test and write his own answers down himself. They have done an amazing job with him, and I want the school to get a blindingly good set of KS2 results this year. They deserve it. I also want his TA to keep her job after he leaves in July and not have to worry about national funding cuts. Maybe if he does really, really well, her ability to show impact on his educational outcomes might help her out too. She’s a fantastically gifted TA and my son adores her. So a part of me does want him to do fabulously well for them.”

Another mother explains that SATs are ruining childhood for many children and narrowing their education and experience at primary school.

“For the last four months, my 11 year-old daughter has been swotting for exams…
What a waste of my child’s last year of primary school – a time when she has not yet lost her sense of wonder at the world around her. When she is still goofy enough not to worry too much about getting things wrong, or looking silly in front of her peers.”

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