Science Sats To Be Scrapped But Maths And English Tests Expected To Continue
According to a review of Sats commissioned by the schools secretary, Ed Balls, formal science tests taken by 600,000 11-year-olds every year should be scrapped. Experts suggest that every child in England should receive a detailed certificate listing their achievements at the end of primary school, to help ease the transition to secondary school by giving their new teachers details about their accomplishments. However, the group behind the review will not recommend that all national tests be abolished – leaving the government to face a showdown with two teaching unions, which threaten to boycott next year’s tests if they are not reformed. The group will recommend that the controversial system of testing all 11-year-olds in English and maths should continue. In the future, tests could be replaced by "single level tests" based on the model of music grade exams. Pilots in 400 schools have raised concerns that teachers may be tempted to enter pupils repeatedly, leading to more stressful testing, so the expert group has asked for an extension of the pilots.
Balls is predicted to accept the recommendations of the expert group. Pupils will still be assessed on their scientific knowledge and understanding, but through practical work in the classroom instead of formal tests. The decision follows plans to remove science from the core of the primary curriculum and replace it with ICT. The report will also announce changes to the system of publishing schools’ results to create league tables. Options being considered include scrapping the system of publishing school-by-school results on one day to discourage the creation of league tables.
The review comes as the government’s strategy for maths in primary schools was attacked in a report by the Commons public spending committee. The report identified 38,000 pupils who started school at the top of the class but by the time they left primary school had dropped to the bottom. Low achievers were significantly more likely to be from the poorest homes. The report said that in 2006–07, £2.3bn of the £10bn primary teaching budget was spent on teaching mathematics. Despite this, improvements in the mathematics results of primary pupils have levelled off since 2000. In 2008, 79% of pupils met the government’s expected standard at 11 in national tests – the highest recorded results, but well short of the department’s ambitions of 85% by 2006.
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