Mick Brookes: We need a system which does not humiliate pupils

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The Independent Online

The proposal put forward by Michael Gove, to move SAT-type tests into Year Seven, deserves more respect than to be simply dismissed as "half-baked". Indeed we have to ask: where is the alternative thinking from the Government?

The fact Lord Adonis thinks the current system of testing is the only way of holding primary schools to account is completely wrong-headed thinking. Currently, the results come out too late to be included in children's school reports.

Parents have always been informed of their child's achievement by the teacher's assessment of their progress. It is clear that the tests are aimed simply at informing government about information that already exists in schools.

Mr Gove's idea could lead to a more timely and fair and accurate assessment system for our children.

As public bodies, schools must be accountable. However, these test results are used to unjustly humiliate children, their teachers and their schools. What we are seeking is a system that is fair, accurate and measures a breadth of learning so that the achievements of children across the curriculum can be celebrated. The current system is both narrow and shallow and is no longer fit for purpose.

The current high stakes nature of these tests inevitably forces schools into coaching for them, thus narrowing the curriculum. Year Six, the final year of primary school, should be a year in which children experience the best of a broad, rich and deep curriculum. All of our research suggests that it is, instead, engulfed by cramming for tests.

The ideas put forward by Mr Gove deserve more than simple dismissal and should be taken for what they are – an alternative and creative way of thinking that could radically alter the educational experience of our Year Six children; and pave the way to closer collaboration between the primary and secondary sectors.

We urge politicians of every hue to take these proposals seriously rather than playing party politics with them. The evidence that the current system spoils the educational experience of children is overwhelming, it is time for change.

Mick Brookes is general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers