Adrian Owens is Chairman of Governors at a state voluntary-aided primary school. He was also the Conservative candidate at the General election in West Lancashire, where he increased the Conservative vote by nearly 3,000 to its highest ever level on current boundaries.
The Key Stage 2 Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) taken at the end of primary school stand somewhat forlorn now. Similar tests at ages seven and fourteen have been replaced by teacher assessment as pressure from the teaching profession and the political tide has turned against such tests.
For those of us observing at close hand, the Key Stage 2 tests, as they are currently formatted, have clearly outlived their usefulness. Indeed, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) organised a boycott of the tests this summer which had only limited success, though more because head teachers were torn between their contractual duty to facilitate the tests than by any residual love for them.
As the years have passed, teachers have become more and more adept at playing the system to maximum advantage. In some primary schools children spend large parts of their final year being drilled for the tests that take place in May each year. After-school cramming sessions abound and “teaching to the test” crowds out sport, music, languages and humanities for week after week in the early spring.
Yet ironically, many secondary schools recognise the limitations of SATs which measure only learning against the national curriculum. So two-thirds of secondary schools supplement SAT results with their own cognitive ability tests to test a range of reasoning skills often masked in SATs. Indeed, my own son has just started secondary school and little weight was attached to his SAT results. Instead class setting decisions involved these additional tests and teacher assessment.