On 14 October the Government abolished SATS exams for 14 year olds. The decision seems to have been prompted by the fact that the private contractor (of course) which ran the SATS this year fouled it up and had to be sacked, and the Government had trouble finding a replacement in time for 2009.
But it is good that the 14 year old SATS are gone. The National Union of Teachers responded with a call for the suspension pending review (why not the abolition?) of 11-year old SATS too.
A House of Commons select committee report earlier this year concluded: “We believe that the system is now out of balance in the sense that the drive to meet government-set targets has too often become the goal rather than the means to the end of providing the best possible education for all children...
“This is demonstrated in phenomena such as teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum and focusing disproportionate resources on borderline pupils [at the expense of those who look certain to do well, or to do badly, in the test]. We urge the Government to reconsider.”
Head teachers told the committee that some schools spend almost half of all lesson time preparing for tests in the final four months of the year.
In other words, SATS had become a means of testing how well schools cram for SATS, and schools had become a means of cramming for SATS (and GCSE, and AS levels, and A levels)..
Another investigation this year found that two-thirds of parents believe SATS are a waste of time and that they put their children under unnecessary stress.
Education in England could be run with a minute fraction of the formal testing currently imposed on it. Students would learn more and enjoy more. Teachers and students would be less stressed. They could focus more on learning what’s important, rather than cramming “what you need to know for the test”.