This is an extract from the annual report for 2004/05 of David Bell, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools at the time:
“Teachers…continue to take [the Key Stage 3 tests] seriously and to prepare pupils as fully as possible.
“However, this is part of the problem. Many teachers spend too much time preparing pupils for the tests; in most schools, the whole of the spring term, and often time before and after, is devoted to explicit test preparation, especially on the set Shakespeare text.
“Many teachers believe that this is excessive and not justified in relation to pupils’ performance in the tests, but they lack the confidence to work differently and are well aware of the importance to the school of good key stage 3 results.
“Consequently, the curriculum narrows significantly in year nine.
“Few departments continue to allocate time to promote pupils’ wider reading and the range of work covered is much more limited than in the two previous years.
“An additional problem is that too much of the work is based around a narrow view of the skills needed by pupils for the tests. In many schools, too much time is devoted to test revision, with not enough regard given to how pupils’ skills could be developed in more meaningful ways.
“Too little emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ ability to work independently and to think creatively…instead work tends to consist of a great deal of teacher instruction and completion of practice papers. As one inspector commented, this can lead to ‘dependency on teachers (that) sometimes prevents higher achievement”.