An extract from Ofsted’s evidence to the House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Select Committee’s inquiry into the national curriculum, 2008:
4.2.1 Assessment (including testing) is an essential component of a curriculum in order to know what pupils have understood before planning the next learning. However, in some schools testing has been allowed to affect the balance of the curriculum although the best schools avoid this. As Ofsted reported in its submission to the Select Committee on assessment and testing, based on evidence gathered during subject inspections:
“In some schools an emphasis on tests in English, mathematics and science limits the range of work in these subjects in particular year groups (Years 6 and 9) and more broadly across the curriculum in some primary schools. Consequently teaching can become narrowly focused at these times.”
4.2.2 HMCI’s 2005-06 Annual Report said that, “For some pupils, however, the experience of English had become narrower in certain years as teachers focused on tests and examinations; this affected pupils’ achievement in speaking and listening in particular,” and that, “Weaker teaching [in mathematics] was too narrowly focused on proficiency in examination techniques at the expense of building understanding of concepts and their relationships.”
4.2.3 More recent evidence suggests the continuance of these trends. For example, in Year 6 mathematics there are fewer opportunities than in other years for practical work because of the emphasis given to practising skills and techniques in preparation for national Key Stage 2 tests. Similarly, in some secondary schools, routine exercises and preparation for tests impair the development of understanding as well as enjoyment of mathematics particularly but not exclusively in Year 9. The best schools buck these trends.
4.2.4 The recently published Poetry in Schools (HMI 070034, 2007) report also discusses the significant impact of tests on the teaching of poetry in English, particularly in Year 9. However the best schools found ways to continue to teach poetry.