Ed Balls’s surprise decision last week to scrap the KS3 tests is the biggest Government retreat on testing policy in the past 20 years. It is, of course, to be welcomed, in terms of the immediate implications in the classroom: teachers I have been in contact with this week are already savouring the chance to inject some creativity into their year nine lessons, although there are some more cautious voices out there. But the implications, in terms of what the decision says about the relationship between the accountability system and pupils’ educational experiences, are also worth considering. In a sense, as I implied in an article for the TES lastRead More →

It’s taken me a while to update this blog with the latest missives on teaching to the test – as ever, it’s hard to keep up with the evidence piling up on this subject, and some of these go back over several weeks now – but here goes: – Ofsted put out a report on maths teaching which included the finding criticising “teaching to the test”. Rising exam results in the past decade were not proof that pupils were getting better at the subject, it added. Among its findings were: “Evidence suggests that strategies to improve test and examination performance, including ‘booster’ lessons, revision classes and extensive intervention, coupledRead More →

I would urge anyone interested in the effects of statistics-led schooling to read a recent paper by Cynthia Bartlett, head of an Oxfordshire comprehensive. Cynthia, who took a sabattical to research and write the 68-page report, describes hyper-accountability as a “tragedy”, for vulnerable pupils in particular. Her paper includes findings gleaned from a survey of 22 of her fellow Oxfordshire secondary heads, and comes with copious research evidence. The testing, targets and tables regime is setting up a sharp divide between schools, Cynthia argues. Those serving more prosperous areas, typically with better results, are able to give disadvantaged or “vulnerable” students the attention they deserve. Those with more childrenRead More →