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Education committee right to call for an end to ‘high stakes’ assessment, says NAHT

Commenting on the Education Select Committee’s report on primary assessment, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT says: “NAHT, along with other unions, has worked with the government on the current consultation to begin creating a primary assessment system that works. This report helpfully sets the agenda for the next stage of this debate.

“Last year’s SATs were a mess of chaos and confusion. Add into this the high stakes nature of the system for school leaders, and you get a toxic mix. We have consistently argued against schools being held to account for raw data alone, and this was something I raised with the Committee when giving evidence earlier in the year. The Committee’s call to scrap the publication of results from a single cohort, proposing instead a rolling three year average of Key Stage 2 results, is therefore very welcome. Data is useful, but it is important to recognise its limitations.

NAHT deputy general secretary Nick Brook, who was part of the NAHT convened independent Assessment Review Group said: “One of our five key priorities for this general election and beyond is to argue that any future government adopts fair methods to hold schools to account. Accountability should recognise that test and exam results are only part of the picture when judging a pupil’s success or a school’s effectiveness.

“The Select Committee highlights that the school accountability system can negatively impact upon children’s teaching and learning. Our own assessment review group recognised this and called for the scrapping of Key Stage 1 SATs, creating space within the primary system to allow for a broad and balanced curriculum to be taught.

“The Committee makes an important contribution to the debate. The next government must listen.”

James Bowen, Director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge says: “middle leaders will be delighted that the Education Committee is forcefully arguing against the high stakes system in primary assessment. They know only too well the way in which an overbearing system can negatively impact on teaching.

“It is heartening to see the Committee highlight the particular problems with the new writing assessment system . In particular, school leaders have seen how the system penalises pupils with dyslexia and dyspraxia with an excessive focus on spelling and handwriting. For teachers, there is the heart-breaking moment when they have to tell a dyslexic pupil, who writes beautiful and engaging prose, that they are working below the expected standard because of spelling alone. This is not right, and we welcome the government’s acceptance that we need a move from secure fit to best fit.

“Given the election period, we expect a government response to be delayed. The report should be required reading for whichever party wins in June. We need the next government to remain focused on primary assessment. Current pupils deserve better than the present system.”

First published 30 April 2017
30/04/2017