School test overhaul is 'not far enough'

CONTROVERSIAL tests for primary school children will be overhauled and performance tables reviewed under wide-ranging plans announced by Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

CONTROVERSIAL tests for primary school children will be overhauled and performance tables reviewed under wide-ranging plans announced by Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

The Standard Assessment Tests (Sats) for seven-year-olds are to be less formal and will become part of a broader assessment of youngsters' abilities by their own teachers.

Schools will also be given control of setting their own targets for 11-year-olds, taking account of their own children and their abilities, under the Excellence and Enjoyment strategy for primary schools unveiled yesterday.

Teaching unions in Suffolk and Essex welcomed the plans but said the moves "did not go anywhere near far enough" to reduce teacher workloads and pupils' stress.


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Mr Clarke insisted that targets, tables and testing were "here to stay".

Speaking in London, the Education Secretary said he understood why testing children so young was seen as harsh. But pointed out that testing at key stage one for seven-year-olds was designed to fit in with activities children did in the classroom every day.

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Mr Clarke said: "The issue we take more seriously is the issue of what's done with the tests and tasks.

"Headteachers argued that, particularly for young children, making one set of tests and tasks count for the whole year doesn't necessarily reflect what children can do and may distort teaching.

"We propose to trial a new approach to assessing seven-year-olds where tests underpin teacher assessment rather than the two running alongside each other.

Mr Clarke said setting their own targets on tests for 11-year-olds would allow schools to use their own knowledge of the children and their performance.

Performance tables for primary schools, which have faced fierce criticism for unfairly rating different schools against each other, will be open to review.

"We know that there are concerns that performance tables don't give much of a rounded view of a school - of its ethos, its inclusivity and the breadth and richness of the offer it makes to children," Mr Clarke said.

He added: "When we talk about giving schools more control, we are talking about intelligent, highly-skilled, professional people thinking rigorously about what it is that needs to be done."

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: "The whole system needs to be abolished to get rid of these tables and tests. There needs to be a rethink because we believe it is failing our children.

"We would like the Government to go much further and get rid of Sats. He (Mr Clarke) is only talking about Key Stage One, we are looking at all the stages."

Mr Goold added: "We are not suggesting there should not be any tests – we say they should be devised by teachers for children at the stage they are at, not a straitjacket which is dictated nationally.

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