Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Sunday, 14 June 2009 17:32 UK

Tories plan to scrap primary Sats

Boy sitting test
The government says Sats are important for parents

Conservative proposals to reform Sats tests would be a "huge step backwards" for school accountability, Schools Minister Vernon Coaker has said.

The Tories want to scrap Sats taken by 11-year-olds in England at the end of their primary schooling, saying this would better serve their interests.

Pupils would instead sit national tests in the first year of secondary school, marked by their teachers.

The proposals were met with a mixed response from teachers' leaders.

Unions which are planning to boycott next year's Sats, gave qualified support to the policy but the NASUWT, which does not support the boycott, said the announcement had "appalling" implications for teachers.

Mr Coaker said the proposals, which were announced by shadow schools secretary Michael Gove, were "half-baked".

The implications for primary and secondary school teachers are appalling
Chris Keates NASUWT general secretary

He said: "If Michael Gove is proposing to push the tests back to Year 7 in secondary school and not publish the results for each primary school, this will be a huge step backwards for school accountability and will deny parents information we know they find valuable."

He also described the method of having the tests done and marked by teachers in secondary school, as "less reliable, less accurate and less effective".

Mr Gove had told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that last year's Sats system "went into meltdown".

He said testing at the end of primary school "completely narrows teaching" and all the focus is on "drilling" children just for those tests.

Transparent

Testing pupils at the beginning of secondary school - and using teachers to mark exams instead of external examiners - would free the final year of primary school for "teaching in a broader sense", he added.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) both oppose the current tests arguing that they damage children and schools.

They say Sats narrow the curriculum as schools are forced to "teach to the test".

The two unions also object to the publication of the results for 11-year-olds in league tables, but the Conservatives do not plan to change this.

NUT head of education John Bangs said he welcomed the "imaginative" Conservative proposals.

But he stressed the Tories needed to explain whether they were proposing "compulsory" tests for every child in secondary school and whether these would be fed into school performance tables.

He said he would like to hear Mr Gove say the Conservatives were opposed to the use of results to compare schools against each other.

However NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates warned that even if Sats were abolished, what she termed "divisive performance league tables" would remain.

She said: "Now the primary school rankings will be based on the results of tests internally administered and marked by secondary schools.

"The implications for primary and secondary school teachers are appalling."

Miss Keates said teachers would face a new system of testing, and all the extra work that involved.

'Irresponsible'

Last October, Schools Secretary Ed Balls scrapped Sats for 14-year-olds in England after the fiasco over the marking of exam papers, but the tests remain for seven and 11-year-olds.

The government says the tests are important to parents and that a boycott would be "irresponsible".

However, ministers have agreed to recommendations from a group of experts, which include scrapping science Sats taken by 10 and 11-year-olds from next year.

Instead, teachers will assess pupils, but English and maths tests stay.

The tests will be moved back next year from May to June.



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