Fratton Labour Councillor Tom Coles challenged the Tory government on its commitment to high stakes testing in schools when he introduced the National Education Union (NEU) motion on SATs at full council (on Tuesday/this afternoon). He said the obsession with league tables and using children as data points was denying them a broad, stimulating education at key stages in their development and distorting the work done in schools. The demands of such a system, he said, added to teachers’ workload placing an avoidable and unnecessary strain on them, their students and parents.
Every year since primary assessment was reformed in 2016, the NEU has asked its members about their experience of SATs and every year they have said the same thing: SATS are bad for children and education. Teachers are being forced to teach to the test with a narrower curriculum with less attention given to the wider educational and developmental needs of the children.
Labour, the Lib Dems and the Green Party have all been united in their opposition to SATs and high-stakes testing. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Layla Moran, the Lib Dem spokesperson on education, at the NEU’s Annual Conference committed to abolishing them and The Welsh Government is already moving away from them.
In spite of evidence showing the negative effects of high-stakes testing in schools by numerous surveys and research from the OECD, (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), YouGov, plus international opinion, only the Conservative Party is committed to it.
According to a YouGov survey, 93% of school leaders think the government should review the current system while 87% think that politicians don’t take the views of headteachers on board when making policy. Teachers have found children particularly adversely affected were those with SEND, those for whom English is a second language and those on free school meals.
Councillor Coles said: ‘Having spoken with teachers, I was told the tests are designed to test their effectiveness and not the advancement of the children, which is why I’ve brought this motion to the Council. Indeed, the current Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, has admitted that these tests are testing schools and not children.
‘As a father of three, two of whom are of primary age, I’ve seen first-hand how the stress of SATs has affected them, their fellow pupils, and their teachers. Change needs to come and hopefully Portsmouth can be at the forefront of this.’