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Lucy's letter to Nicky Morgan regarding the Government’s compromised SATs tests and the chaos in primary assessment

city_centre_small.jpgLucy has today written to to the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, regarding the Government’s compromised SATs tests and the chaos in primary assessment:

 

Dear Nicky,

Today’s SATs debacle is the latest in a long line of failures from the Government that have led to a total loss of confidence amongst parents, teachers and school leaders in this year’s primary school assessment. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Accidentally publishing the Key Stage 1 spelling and grammar test online, meaning the test had to be scrapped.
  • Failing to publish primary assessment resources on schedule, meaning the deadline for the assessments had to be pushed back just months before they were due to start.
  • Failing to ensure that the planned baseline assessments were sufficiently comparable, meaning they had to be scrapped.
  • Scrapping the levels assessment system in schools, with nothing to replace it. This has created significant uncertainty amongst teaching professionals and has left parents unclear as to exactly how their child is performing and what they need to do to progress, with schools simply trying to reintroduce their own made-up version of levels.
  • Over the course of this academic year, the Department for Education has published, updated or clarified 82 primary assessment documents on their website - on average at least one every other working day. This constant changing of the goalposts has added bureaucracy and workload for teachers and created confusion for parents.

Now we have learned that the Key Stage 2 spelling and grammar tests and their answers have been published online ahead of children sitting them today. For the children, parents and teachers, who have worked so hard over the past few months to prepare for these tests, this error now raises serious questions about the validity and integrity of these assessments.

There is now no confidence left among parents, teachers and school leaders in this year’s primary assessments, as a result of your Department’s incessant chopping and changing and failure to deliver a smooth transition of reforms. There is also widespread concern that the tests as they stand do not correlate to the preparation that many children have done.

It was reported this weekend that up to 1,000 primary schools could be forced to become academies on the basis of Key Stage 2 assessments. With the results of the tests today entirely compromised, for the Government to use them as a device to hold schools to account would be wholly unfair and wrong. Consequently, can you please write to me with answers to the following questions, as a matter of urgency?

  • Today, your Department is claiming that these tests have been “sabotaged”. Will you offer a firm guarantee to head teachers and parents that their child’s primary school will not be forced to become an academy on the basis of these compromised tests?
  • Will you apologise to children, parents and teachers for this constant chopping and changing in assessment from your Department, which is causing disruption and chaos in our children’s schools and extra bureaucracy for teachers, who are being left unable to do their job?
  • Why did Ministers in the Department for Education allow themselves to be entirely distracted by their self-evidently flawed plan to force all schools to become academies against their wishes, at the expense of delivering a robust, fair, and effective assessment system in schools that parents could have confidence in?
  • With school budgets falling in real terms for the first time in 20 years, chronic shortages of teachers, not enough good school places and rising class sizes, and absolute chaos and confusion in exams and assessments, why is your Department failing to deliver on the basics in education at every opportunity?

Ongoing assessment and robust and consistent testing in schools is extremely important to help teachers and parents support and provide stretch for all children, and to identify and close any gaps in knowledge so all pupils can do well. A robust assessment regime needs consistency and to be understood by all. This Government has utterly failed to deliver this, and the children and parents who have been let down every step of the way deserve an explanation.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Yours sincerely,

 

Lucy Powell MP

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