Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to scrap SATs is a dumbed down plot to damage pupils’ dreams

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn once said he wanted to introduce ‘a kinder, gentler’ politics to Britain. Now he wants to make our schools more compassionate, irrespective of whether it makes them less demanding. Headteacher Katharine Moana Birbalsingh, writes in the Daily Mail

The centrepiece of his softly-softly approach is the abolition of Standard Assessment Tests (SATs), which were introduced in the 1990s following complaints that the previous system of individual appraisals by teachers was undermining national standards and leading to gross inconsistencies.

But Mr Corbyn, who made his announcement at the conference of the National Education Union yesterday, argues that SATs are unjust and cruel.

I know the value of testing in measuring quality and driving up levels of achievement. If Mr Corbyn’s policy was put into practice, it would cause severe damage to the life chances of huge numbers of primary schoolchildren, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He says they are unfair, but the very opposite is true as they are set by an independent organisation, creating a level playing field for all pupils, regardless of race or privilege. SATs see no colour or class, but only the test performance.

But with teacher assessment, the position was very different. Individual teachers could not help but bring their own expectations of the child to the process, as was clearly proved in a study carried out in the 1990s by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which revealed how such assessments were riddled with bias.

With equal irony, the biggest winners will be pupils in private schools, where the culture of regular testing will continue. In fact, this sector partly flourishes precisely because its pupils are so used to being stretched. We need to continue to match that in state schools.

Misery is not fuelled in state primaries by the SATs regime. On the contrary, pupils are emotionally fulfilled when they achieve tough goals. A profound sense of personal satisfaction and relief arises from scaling the mountains of challenge, whereas flat landscapes breed a bored complacency.

I am not denying that there are problems with SATs. There is, as Mr Corbyn says, too much ‘teaching to the test’, where pupils can be fed a diet of past papers in preparation for their own exams. And it’s true that the demands of SATs, with its emphasis on English and maths, can encourage teachers to spend less time on other subjects. But the answer is not abolition.

Read the full article Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to scrap SATs is a dumbed down plot to damage pupils’ dreams

What do you think? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Anonymous

    I am extremely relieved that Katharine Birbalsingh does not approve of Corbyn’s education plans. I would be very, very worried if she thought they make sense. The vast majority of good teachers would be more on his side than hers. To be clear: I thoroughly disapprove of everything I have seen and read about Birbalsingh’s attitude to education.

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