Value of pupil tests 'is finely balanced': Inspectors say cost and complexity undermines benefits to schools

THE COSTS and complexity of testing children in England are in danger of outweighing the benefits, the schools inspectorate warns today.

The Office for Standards in Education, Ofsted, is convinced that national tests for 7- and 14- year-olds are producing tangible improvements in educational standards, but its report also notes that some schools are beginning to 'teach to the test'.

At a time when teachers are threatening to boycott key stage three tests for 14-year-olds, ministers will welcome the inspectors' finding that key stage one tests for seven-year-olds are now firmly established. But the report, Assessment, Recording and Reporting, stresses the importance of teacher confidence if the pupil assessments are to be valid.

Teaching unions will point to the conclusion that at both stages 'the burden of assessment and reporting on many teachers are considerable and growing as new subjects are introduced'.

The growing expertise of infant teachers in assessing children's progress is praised, but the inspectors found few schools made good use of the information amassed from the Standard Assessment Tasks (Sats). They criticise the quality of assessment at key stage three in secondary and middle schools, where the norm is 'weak'. Teachers' view that the 1992 pilot tests told them nothing new about their pupils was 'misguided', the inspectors say.

The cost of assessment and testing, including teachers' time, have been considerable and increased significantly, according to the report, one of four published today on the progress of implementing the national curriculum.

'But the improvements in educational standards are also tangible; in higher expectations of what pupils can and should achieve; in better planning and preparation; in ensuring broader curricular coverage.

'This year, however, and for the first time, the benefits and costs are finely balanced. There are some clearly discernible signs that the impact of 'teaching to the test' and the complexities of the assessment requirements could lead to a distortion of the positive relationship between teaching, learning and assessment,' according to Ofsted, which is headed by Stewart Sutherland, HM Chief Inspector of Schools. The report concedes some of the teachers' criticisms were sound.

Looking at the impact of the national curriculum on children with special educational needs, Ofsted found primary schools mounted a higher proportion of good or satisfactory lessons for them than either special schools or secondaries. But in all schools, the lessons and work of these children deteriorated as the school year progressed and the inspectors say schools need to improve planning.

Making history and geography specific subjects in the national curriculum instead of just part of broad-based topics has presented primary schools with a challenge.

Assessment, Recording and Reporting: Third Year, 1991-92; Special Needs and the National Curriculum 1991-92; History Key Stages 1, 2 and 3: First Year 1991-92; Geography Key Stages 1,2 and 3: First Year 1991-92; Office for Standards in Education; pounds 3.50 each from HMSO.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before