Exams for seven-year olds replaced with assessments

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The Independent Online

End-of-year tests for seven-year-olds were scrapped yesterday by the Government after ministers admitted that flexible assessments were more accurate in judging pupils' performance than a one-off exam.

End-of-year tests for seven-year-olds were scrapped yesterday by the Government after ministers admitted that flexible assessments were more accurate in judging pupils' performance than a one-off exam.

The scrapping of the formal exams is part of the biggest shake-up of the national testing regime in England since it was introduced 13 years ago.

The move was welcomed by teachers' leaders, who had argued that the tests were too stressful for young children. But the second-largest teachers' union warned that the move must not be allowed to increase teachers' workloads.

Pupils will still take the tests in reading, writing and maths, but no longer under strict exam conditions. Their scores will feed into their teachers' assessment of their overall work during the year, rather than giving a "sudden death" snapshot of whether they reached the required standard on exam day. Teachers will be able to set the tests at any time during the year rather than the current high-security system that sees every child sit the same test at exactly the same time.

At present, parents of seven-year-olds receive two sets of results: their national test scores and their teacher's assessment in each subject. Under the new system, parents will receive only the teacher's assessment, which will take the tests into account. However, teachers will be allowed to award higher marks if they believe pupils did not do themselves justice in the tests.

The overhaul of the system follows a successful pilot of the new regime in 5,000 primary schools by the Qualification and Curriculum Authority, the Government's testing watchdog.

The pilot found that the new system was "at least as robust" as the old methods and was popular with teachers. It found "no evidence" that schools used new flexibilities to inflate their school's results.

Currently, all pupils aged 7, 11 and 14 take national tests - commonly known as SATs - every May. Formal tests for seven-year-olds will be scrapped next spring.

Stephen Twigg, the Education minister, said the new procedures would be "more accurate" for seven-year-olds but insisted there would be no change in the testing of pupils aged 11 and 14.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "This is good news for teachers and parents. The logic must be for the Government to draw on the experience of Wales and Scotland and move towards further reform of end of key stage testing and assessment in schools. The tests are burdens without benefits and disrupt rather than promote children's education."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, praised the Government for trusting teachers. "Teacher assessment, supported by tests and tasks administered by teachers as and when they think fit, is a much better approach for seven-year-olds," he said.

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, warned that the trial showed teachers had been put under unacceptable pressure.

"While the Government's intention was for the scheme to be introduced without additional workload and bureaucratic burdens on teachers, the process used in some schools and LEAs had put teachers under additional pressure," she said.

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