CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Heads: Cancel these ‘pointless’ tests

School leaders join together to tell government to ditch SATs amid Covid-19 health crisis

22 October, 2020 — By Tom Foot

STANDARD assessment tests (SATs) should be scrapped this year to help schools struggling with the “logistical nightmare” of Covid-19, headteachers demanded this week.

Several Camden primary heads are among 750 who have co-signed a letter to the Department for Education warning they “cannot afford to waste any more time” on the “pointless” exams.

The end-of-year tests, which pupils take just before their switch to secondary school, were pulled in the spring because of the Covid crisis John Hayes, head of Gospel Oak Primary School and one of the signatories, said: “The purpose of SATs is to compare schools with other schools. That’s just not what is relevant right now.

“What has happened to schools over the last few months has been so different depending on each individual school, that to make comparisons bet­ween them this year is pointless. We assess children all the time. SATs never tell us anything we do not already know and teachers don’t teach to be high up in the league tables.

“I think what parents want to know right now is that their children are getting a broad education.We want to be thinking about the friendships children make, their ability for example to stand up and sing in front of an audience – not just this narrow focus about test results.”

Mr Hayes said he was this week dealing with the more urgent impact of Covid cases in his school that had led to the closure of some classroom “bubbles”. Staffing pressure meant he was having to pitch-in “collecting lunches for Year 4” on top of managing the costs of new social distancing measures and better ventilation inside the building in Mansfield Road.

The joint headteachers’ letters said that SATs – first introduced in the 1990s – served to produce “meaningless data and put pointless pressure on children”.

Gwen Lee from Christopher Hatton in Holborn, Clive Hale from St Paul’s in Primrose Hill, and James Humphries from Kentish Town School also signed the letter organised by campaign group More Than Just a School.

Gerald Clark, secretary of Camden National Education Union (NEU), added: “To expect staff to be delivering a full normal curriculum on top of this, preparing children for national tests just isn’t fair. It’s not fair on the staff and it shows no recognition of what our children have been through in the last six months. We certainly don’t think that now is the right time to carry out these tests and would urge the government to reconsider and let us get on with doing what we do best.”

A DfE statement said: “We are planning for statutory primary assessments to take place in summer 2021. We have launched a £1billion Covid catch-up package to directly tackle the impact of lost teaching time as a result of the pandemic, which headteachers and school leaders have the flexibility to decide how to spend in the best interests of their students.”

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