Primaries target 'bolsters testing we boycotted'

A LEADING Yorkshire head teacher has warned that the creation of a new floor target for primary schools will reinforce the importance of the Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) which hundreds of schools in the region boycotted this year.

The coalition Government's education reforms include plans to create a benchmark for primary schools which will all be expected to get 60 per cent of their 11-year-old pupils achieving the basic standards in English and maths

Primary schools which took part in this summer's tests will discover next week if their pupils made the grade or if they will be classed as under performing by Ministers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Stephen Watkins, a national executive member of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and head of Mill Field primary in Leeds, has criticised the Government's plans which he says will undermine an independent review of primary school testing to which Education Secretary Michael Gove has agreed.

Mr Watkins was among more than 600 head teachers across Yorkshire who took part in a boycott of this summer's English and maths SATS tests in an attempt to get them abolished in protest over the impact they have on teachers. Both the NAHT and the National Union of Teachers held the boycott.

However, the NAHT agreed not to continue the action next year after the Government offered to allow an independent review of primary school testing to be carried out.

Mr Watkins said: "We are having a review but Ministers are undermining it by announcing firstly that there will be a phonics test for six-year-olds and now a floor target for primary schools based on SATs results. It feels like a backward step. "My personal view is that if this goes ahead I would be in the camp calling for us to boycott SATS again but that is not the NAHT position.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I know a lot of teachers who are frustrated that we are not going ahead with the boycott next year and this minimum standard adds to that.

"My school is one of those that would fail to meet this standard some years and meet it in others depending on the intake. I am happy for us to be measured on the progress we make with pupils from when they join us."

The Government's plan for a new minimum standard for primary schools will include "a progression element" by only classing schools as failing if they do not keep pace with the national average level of progress between the ages of seven and 11.

Steve Iredale, head teacher of Athersley South Primary, in Barnsley, who first proposed the SATS boycott at the NAHT's annual conference last year, has also voiced concern about the Government's plans for setting a minimum standard to be expected of all primary schools. He warned that the 60 per cent target would be beyond some schools and told the Yorkshire Post the NAHT would have to consider its position if the new benchmark were introduced. He said the union had been happy to suspend industrial action in order to get an independent review but would not accept "any act of bad faith" from the Government.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Primary schools will be classed as falling below the floor target if they fail to get 60 per cent of pupils to achieve level four – the standard expected of the age group – in both maths and English SATS tests at 11 years old and they fail to keep pace with the national average level of improvement between the ages of seven and 11.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "School-to- school collaboration will be key to driving up performance and we will work with local authorities to bring about sustainable improvement in primary schools below the new floor standard.

"For some of these schools conversion to academy status with a strong sponsor may be the best course of action."

The Government acknowledges that schools which fail to meet the target will be in "very different situations." It says: "Some may have suffered a recent decline, others maybe improving strongly. Some may be struggling to recruit teachers in a key department, others may have much more serious problems. We will make sure that there is an appropriately differentiated approach to supporting schools below the floor to improve." The Government's White Paper also includes plans to raise the benchmark on which secondary schools are judged. The previous Government's National Challenge initiative called on all schools to ensure at least 30 per cent of pupils achieved five good GCSEs, including English and maths. The target is now set to rise to 35 per cent.

Stay-away schools to undermine published results

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Next week the publishing of results from this summer's SATS in English and maths will be partly undermined by the number of schools who took part in a boycott.

The scores from these tests are normally used to compile national school league tables which teaching unions complain undermines their profession and narrows children's education.

The tables are set to be published by the Department for Education on Tuesday. However across Yorkshire there were 22,900 pupils who were not tested this summer as more than a third of the region's primary schools took part in industrial action against SATS. Almost 650 primary schools in the region refused to administer the test during the boycott by the National Union of Teachers and National Association of Head Teachers. The action left the Government unable to produce results for 20 education authorities, including Bradford, Calderdale, North Lincolnshire and Wakefield. The Department for Education decided the schools which did sit tests in each of these areas were not "representative" of their authority and could not be used. Now it is expected that the boycott will also hamper the school league tables. The results show how many pupils from each school reached the expected level in both English and maths.