The Government were clearly rattled by opposition to last year’s tests, including the parents’ protest last May and hundreds of responses to the Select Committee of MPs. Unfortunately, they are very slow to learn.
After many delays, the new proposals amount to very little:
- Key Stage 1 tests will no longer be required – from 2022
- Baseline tests in Reception to be reintroduced
- The impossibly difficult KS2 tests will remain
- The useless Phonics Check will stay
- A new Multiplications Table test is to be introduced.
The tests at age 11 are a complete mess. They resulted in half of children moving on to secondary schools with a failure label round their necks in Reading, Writing or Maths.
This was particularly damaging to children growing up in poverty. Over half of children on free meals were failed in Maths alone.
The reading test showed no understanding of the gulf between children’s life experience and the texts. Children growing up in poverty were expected to make sense of a family holding a garden party… in a garden with a lake!
The writing test was just an extra test of grammar. Children were expected to shoehorn extra semicolons, subordinate clauses and frontal adverbials into their writing, however inappropriately. This made writing a sterile exercise, not the expression of meaning.
Altogether, large amounts of time were wasted simply practising the tests.
Tests for younger children were heavily affected by month of birth. August-born children were twice as likely to fail the phonics test, and similarly KS1. The phonics test is almost useless as a diagnostic tool and results bear little resemblance to later success in real reading.
The Government have learnt nothing from last year’s Baseline fiasco. They still believe that it is possible to test 4-year-olds and get reliable results. They see this as a way of measuring the ‘effectiveness’ of a school.
Baseline tests in reception are doomed to failure. They are a fantasy dressed up as science.
Labelling young children as high or low ability, good or poor potential is unethical.
Professionals should not be made complicit in flawed judgements which lower expectations and seal the child’s fate.
Reclaiming Schools is an active member of the More Than A Score coalition.