A few years ago, not long after Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party, I took part in a packed fringe meeting at the Labour conference. The subject was “Where next for Labour party education policy?” The Guardian reports.
This week, year 6 children are yet again sitting the tests, more than 20 years since they were introduced and less than a month after the Labour leader did indeed announce that Sats would be abolished if he came to power.
To a rousing response from the National Education Union conference, Jeremy Corbyn explained that a Labour government would introduce alternative forms of primary assessment that would mark an end to overworked teachers and stressed pupils. Children would be prepared for life, not exams, and standards would rise by freeing teachers to teach. Really?
The high stakes and intensely competitive nature of English schooling drives unethical behaviour by some school leaders and degrades the education experiences of too many children. Problems with recruitment and retention are inevitably fuelled by a negative culture in schools, where exam performance trumps all else.
But none of this is new and the problem for Labour and other anti-testing campaigners is that Sats don’t exist in a vacuum. They are just one cog in a deeply rooted choice-based public education system that also comprises judgments about the curriculum, qualifications, and what we mean by a good education. The principal secondary school performance measure, progress 8, rests on the foundation of Sats. Is Jeremy Corbyn planning to rip that up as well?
When I described, to a young mother at the Labour conference, the culture in my children’s primary school in 1993, before league tables and Ofsted, where some teachers believed a diet of music and art was sufficient, and more than half of children left school with inadequate levels of literacy and numeracy, she was temporarily lost for words. It seemed an unrecognisable world.
Remembering what many schools were like turns me into a crusader for accountability, which has almost certainly contributed to the fact that we have far fewer failing schools today. Hideous as being “named and shamed” by Ofsted was – when the first league tables were published our school was third from bottom and fewer than 40% of children achieved an acceptable level in maths – it was a powerful incentive to improve.
Read the full article Corbyn’s promise to abolish Sats is merely a crowd pleaser
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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