Page last updated at 03:27 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 04:27 UK

Schools keep testing 14-year-olds

piles of scripts
Key Stage 3 tests are free, other optional tests have to be paid for

Hundreds of thousands of 14-year-olds in England will still be tested next month even though the government no longer requires them to be.

The Key Stage 3 national curriculum tests, or "Sats", were scrapped during last year's marking fiasco.

But the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority still produces non-statutory English and maths tests - and most secondary schools have ordered them.

A total of 3,283 have tests compared with 4,186 last year, when they had to.

Some 15,000 schools have also ordered optional tests for school Years 3, 4 and 5, 7 and 8.


The QCA is unable to say how many of the 3,283 schools that have ordered the Year 9 tests (for the 14-year-olds) are in the state sector: some independent schools also choose to do them even though they have never had to.

When he scrapped the Key Stage 3 tests, Schools Secretary Ed Balls told MPs that those taken by 11-year-olds would provide accountability for primary schools - and that GCSEs and A-levels would be sufficient to show the performance of secondary schools, without the need for tests at the age of 14.

One primary school deputy head teacher, Jean Roberts, is proposing an anti-Sats motion at the annual conference of one of the teacher unions, the ATL.

She says the reality is that "we have such a culture of testing in schools that teachers feel de-skilled".

She believes Sats may have removed the ability from teachers to assess children themselves.

Schools are continuing with them because "management are terrified they're not going to have data on pupils" - and believe parents want to see the results, she said.

League tables

Teachers do also have to produce assessments of their pupils' progress, whether they are administering the tests or not.

The QCA produces assessment materials - APP tests - to inform those judgements.

Schools use a battery of other commercially-available tests to assess different aspects of pupils' performances on a regular basis.

The biggest objection to the Key Stage 3 tests was not the assessment but the publication of results by which schools could be ranked.

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