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, coupled with a heavy emphasis on ‘teaching to the test, succeed in preparing pupils to gain the qualifications but are not equipping them well enough mathematically for their futures”.

The full report is here:

This is far from the first time that Ofsted, of course, has observed on and criticised teaching to the test, as the evidence section of this website shows. The irony, of course, will not be lost of many teachers, who would say that the inspectorate helps accentuate teaching to the test by making exam results so crucial to its inspection judgements. Further evidence on that, with Ofsted publishing a new inspection framework, is likely to arrive in the coming weeks.

– A paper from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which runs PISA, the most prominent international testing system, called on England to “reduce the focus on testing and targets and put more focus on supporting weak students and schools”.

The paper also warned that English schools were likely to be “gaming” the results system, focusing their efforts at particular groups of students and tactics most likely to improved their published scores, and counselled that education should be about more than success in academic exams. 

Not everyone will agree with the notion that England’s “education performance” – itself a problematic term, I believe,  – is said to be average on the basis mainly of evidence from international testing surveys. But the report is worth a read here:


– The Wellcome Trust, Britain’s biggest charity, published reports which argued that testing was distorting science teaching. The papers were written by Professors Wynne Harlen and Peter Tymms, who have also conducted studies for the current Cambridge University-based primary review. The press release is here:

– Another report on science, this time focusing on 14-19 schooling rather than primary, from the Royal Society, was not concerned specifically with the side-effects of test- or exam-based schooling. But it did remark that year-on-year inprovements in exam results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have not necessarily been reflected in international testing studies, a point which I also make in my book. The press release for the report, which also attacks the effects of “political short-termism” in education, is here:

– The Daily Telegraph carried another leader attacking teaching to the test. It included the following telling sentence:

“Instead of rasing standards, Sats have created a culture where teachers teach to the test rather than promote understanding.”

The leader, entitled “teaching for tests fails our children”, is here:







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