Test reforms for primary pupils win over teachers

A compromise package of reforms to controversial national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds appeared last night to have headed off the threat of a teachers' boycott next year.

A Government-appointed review panel recommended scrapping tests in creative writing because teachers drilled their pupils for it – thus losing any element of creativity. Instead, teachers will assess their pupils on their creative ability on writing done throughout their final year of primary school.

A tougher test in spelling, grammar and punctuation will be introduced; previously, only spelling was tested outside of the creative writing tests. Maths tests for the 600,000 children who sit the tests every year will stay as they are, as will reading.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers, which both boycotted the tests last year, gave a cautious welcome to the proposals, describing them as "a positive milestone on the way to a fairer, smarter assessment regime".

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, added: "This will reduce drilling and give both parents and secondary schools a far more accurate picture of pupils' achievements."

However, Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said the inquiry had "ducked the issue and come up with a fudge".

Lord Bew, who headed the inquiry, said: "This major shift will ensure pupils can become more creative and overcome teachers teaching to the test." But he added: "The main criticism is not the tests but the way the data is used [in league tables], so we believe any changes need to start with the accountability system."

On league tables, the panel recommended a new measure giving a rolling average of schools' performance over three years to run alongside the annual test scores.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "Their [the panel's] recommendations represent an educationally sound approach while taking account of different opinions."

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