By Will Stone
Britain’s shadow Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn has vowed that a future Labour government will abolish hated primary school SATs. The Labour leader made the pledge in a barnstorming speech at the National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference in Liverpool.
He laid out the policy under plans to abolish the “regime of extreme pressure testing” for primary school children, who are among the most tested in the world. The policy would help relieve pressure on a schools system forced to cope with overcrowded classrooms and the ongoing crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, Labour said. Mr Corbyn also announced that the next Labour government will scrap baseline assessments for reception classes. “We need to prepare children for life, not just for exams,” he said.
“SATs and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears. “I meet teachers of all ages and backgrounds who are totally overworked and overstressed. These are dedicated public servants. It’s just wrong.” Labour will launch a consultation with teachers and parents to develop a more flexible and practical assessment system.
The new system will trust and empower teachers to deliver a broader curriculum beyond the current rigid assessment regime. It is understood any new assessment will broadly test the same skills but one that will move away from the league table culture. Mr Corbyn said: “Our assessment will be based on clear principles. First, to understand the learning needs of each child, because every child is unique. “And second, to encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education.
“Teachers get into the profession because they want to inspire children, not pass them along an assembly line. “We will raise standards by freeing up teachers to teach. Labour trusts teachers. You are professionals. You know your job. You know your students.” Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner told the Star that is about not making tests “about a particular student at a particular point.” She said: “We need to allow teachers to be the professionals that they are, which the current SATs system doesn’t.
“The current system does not deliver. We’ve heard horror stories of pupils throwing up due to the stress. “League tables, especially at primary level, is highly unreliable because they are based on the SATs results and the SATs results don’t deliver, it doesn’t show the excellence we need to show. “I think that one of the things I want to try and do is wean them off this idea that this league table-based approach — arbitrary high-stakes testing — will decide whether a school is good, outstanding or excellent.”
The announcement was also welcomed by More Than A Score, a coalition of parents, teachers, heads and education experts campaigning to change the standardised assessment system in primary schools.
A spokesperson said: “We’ve now reached a tipping point as parents, teachers, heads, education experts and politicians agree: the current testing regime makes no sense and is damaging for pupils, teachers and schools.”
NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Jeremy Corbyn gets it: he recognises the damage that a test-driven system is doing to children and schools; he understands what needs to change; he sets out ideas for education which will make sense to parents and teachers.
“The NEU has long advocated an assessment system that has the trust of teachers and school communities — one that will support children’s learning and raise standards of attainment in our schools.
“We look forward to the return of a broad and balanced primary curriculum and to the rekindling of the spirit of creativity in our schools. We welcome Labour’s commitment to work with the profession in order to develop these groundbreaking policies further.”
Mr Corybn’s pledge comes after NEU delegates voted to ballot members for a boycott of SATs in primaries across England next year.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “Abolishing these tests would be a terrible, retrograde step. It would enormously damage our education system and undo decades of improvement in children’s reading and maths.” (IPA Service)
Courtesy: Morning Star