SATs for 14-Year-Olds Scrapped

Ed Balls has finally bowed to the inevitable, accepting that the English examination system is far too bloated and there are not enough markers to process national exams for all 7, 11, 14, 15, 16-year-olds in the country. The disastrous management of last year's Key Stage 3 National Curriculum Tests (the age 14 SATs) has forced Balls to cancel them permanently. It is a shame that he did not do this for educational reasons (for example, see this previous post), but the move will still be welcomed by parents and teachers.

The main problem, though, of these national tests has always been their narrowness. They only test a predictable subset of the National Curriculum, with a question style that does not vary, making them susceptible to coaching, or teaching to the test.

However, the huge pressure on teachers to teach to the test, bleated about routinely by the unions and criticised in report after report, could be eased by two simple measures:

  • First, the General Teaching Councils could declare that teaching to the test was unprofessional. Teachers will then be free to do the right thing and stop pressurising the pupils.

  • Secondly, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority should both take control of the copyright of the past test questions, banning their unauthorised reproduction and use in classrooms, and change the style of questions each year.

Without an obvious test to teach to, and no reliable past questions, the pressure will be on to teach the whole curriculum - exactly what was originally intended when the National Curriculum was introduced.

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