Assessment for who?

The proposed SATs boycott throws up once more the arguments for and against this form of assessment.
Many in education will tell you that the current SATs process is more about school accountablilty to government than it is to parents and children. How can an externally marked set of 45 minutes (and shorter) tests be of more value than the professional judgement and ongoing assessments of the teachers who work with those being tested everyday?

One of the major conerns with the current system is the public naming and shaming of schools through the publication of crude and potentially humiliating ‘League Tables’. Few would argue that it it important for children and parents to have some form of reported level at the end of their time in primary school but the current system puts so much stress and worry on the shoulders of the nation’s 11 year olds it’s no surprise that in some quarters they are being reported as less happy than their peers around the world. When neighbouring schools in Scotland and Wales don’t have this regime, it does seen odd that the English Education system still demands it. Indeed Key Stage 1 SATs are now internally marked and the government overnight, got rid of Key Stage 3 SATs, leaving one to wonder why Y2 and Y9 teachers appear to be trusted to assess students internally but not Y6 staff!

So, the answer remains unclear.   Assessement for who?

Students are far better served by accurate teacher assessements based on knowing each individually and using informed judgements alongside internal summative and formative evidence. The use of such a range of information negates the possibility of students having an ‘off day” and seriously damaging their chances with a misleading and inaccurate result.

Parents want to an accurate picture of their children’s attainment and how they can improve and build on this.

Staff don’t want to spend weeks and months narrowing the curriculum down to drilling for exams that allow others to judge their performance and ability in the classoom. They want to give children creative, exciting learning opportunities – this obviously doesn’t sit well with the SATs regime.

Schools don’t want to be unfairly judged against other schools based on a questionable set of data that is constantly plagued with inaccuracies and marking fiascoes.  Schools want collaboration, not competition and the pitting of one against the other through misleading League Tables and crude positions.

Local Authorities would also surely wlecome a reporting system that was accurate and enabled them to support local need ensuring all children left primary school with a love of learning, an understaning where they are and what they need to do to improve.

High schools would welcome the opportunity to work with primary colleagues to ensure tansition was as smooth as possible. This surely means getting together over assessments to unpick the reality of students ability over the snapshots currently provided through extenal national assessments.

It’s hard to find an argument in favour of the current system, it only appears to be useful as a political tool where figures can be used to support claims of success due to government intervention here, failure due to not following government intervention there.   It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.   The main three parties believe education is a potential vote winner – here’s a great chance to make a real difference to schools, children and families.


About smichael920

Headteacher of a large primary school in North West England. Helping me to blur the distinction between work and home, I am also father of five, covering most phases of education thus giving me the lowdown from within and without. Education is about enjoying today and preparing for tomorrow. This can't be done using the tools of the past. View all posts by smichael920

One response to “Assessment for who?

  • Andy mellor

    Totally agree! Great article. Does beg the question why. Ed balls trots out the accountability and parents wanting info on their child but both are served better by teacher assessment supported by tests. Mick waters put it beautifully. We assess not to prove but to improve!

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