Today was an extraordinary day, even notwithstanding the fact that we are in the middle of arguably the biggest education story for years: the current test marking fiasco.
What was remarkable was that Barry Sheerman, Labour chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, chose to put out a press release in response to the Government’s own reaction to his committee’s report on assessment, which had highlighted widespread problems.
Ministers, he said, had “missed the point” by being unwilling to concede that teaching to the test was a widespread problem. Widespread teaching to the test, which many schools feel forced into because of the pressures of the Government’s league tables/target/inspection regime, has been documented by many organisations. This week, in a letter to the committee, Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, pulled together Ofsted’s evidence on teaching to the test, which is pretty extensive.
Mr Sheerman also took the Government to task for quoting Ken Boston, the head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, selectively. The Department for Children, Schools and Families’ response quoted Dr Boston’s view that he thought national tests were fit for purpose, but not that there were problems with using test results for too many purposes.
“It is a pity that the Government has not taken this opportunity to make a commitment to reform the national testing system in order to ensure that children and teachers get the most out of their education experience,” said Mr Sheerman.
Paul Holmes, a Liberal Democrat member of the committee, accused ministers of an “ostrich-like” refusal to accept the evidence.
The Government and Ofsted responses are available here:
The Committee’s latest statement, including Mr Sheerman’s comments, is here: