In a few weeks’ time, primary school children across England will be taking their SATs exams. However, if Jeremy Corbyn had his way, they would not face the tests at all.
Labour has announced that it will scrap the SATs, saying that “teachers need to teach” instead of over-testing pupils, reports Perspecs.
However, some argue that they are the fairest way to judge pupils – and have no consequences for them.
Corbyn has promised that a Labour government would scrap SATs exams for seven- and 11-year-olds, the Guardian reports. He said: “We need to prepare children for life, not just for exams.”
Appearing at the National Education Union conference in Liverpool, the Labour leader said that “teachers need to teach”, rather than over-testing pupils. He vowed that Labour would abolish SATs, as well as the baseline assessments for reception classes.
Corbyn said: “Teachers get into the profession because they want to inspire children, not pass them along an assembly line.
“We will raise standards by freeing up teachers to teach. Labour trusts teachers. You are professionals. You know your job. You know your students.”
His speech received a warm reception from the 1,500-strong audience of teachers, who voted on Monday in favour of a ballot to boycott SATs tests next year.
He added: “SATs and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears.”
The Labour leader said he would consult with parents and teachers, and come up with a more flexible style of assessment, suited to individuals.
He said: “Our assessment will be based on clear principles. First, to understand the learning needs of each child, because every child is unique. And second, to encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education.
“When children have a rich and varied curriculum, when they’re encouraged to be creative, to develop their imagination, then there’s evidence that they do better at the core elements of literacy and numeracy too.”
Cassie Young, the head of Brenzett CofE primary school in Kent, argues that SATs are “the fairest way to judge pupil progress”.
Writing for Schools Week, she says that teachers and pupils should not have any reason to be stressed about the exams.
She explains: “SATs are about assessing the work of a school, and have no consequences whatsoever for pupils.
“If they are worried, it’s probably because stressed teachers have placed that pressure upon them, usually because they themselves are under pressure from demanding senior leaders.”
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Young also calls the argument that pupils are over-tested “nonsense”. Pupils are formally assessed by the baseline, the phonics and times tables checks, SATs and GCSEs.
She argues: “That’s five times across 12 years; hardly a tsunami of exams, particularly when you consider how short the first few are, and that pupils shouldn’t even know they are being assessed in the first three.”
Young concludes: “Abolishing SATs is not as black and white as it seems. The main issues people have with them tend to be more down to schools than the tests themselves, and the benefits they provide are often forgotten or ignored.”
SATs exams were introduced in 1990 to measure a child’s progress in education in order to compare schools. Around 500,000 children take the exams every year.
Pupils sit the standardised national tests in England when they are six- and seven-year-olds at the end of Key Stage 1, and again when they are at the end of Key Stage 2 – their final year at primary school.
The results from the SATs exams are used to measure a school’s attainment of their pupils, and the progress they make. They are expected to meet a minimum “floor standard”. Schools are below this standard if under 65 per cent of pupils meet the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics.
In 2018, the government announced that KS1 SATs would be replaced with a baseline assessment for reception pupils at the ages of four to five. The baseline assessments will begin in 2020, and the SATs for nine-year-olds would be scrapped by 2023. Under the new plans, the year four pupils will have to sit times table tests instead.