Lord Bew's independent review of SATs published


The final review into Key Stage 2 testing, assessment and accountability has been published, and calls for changes to English tests to increase creativity.

Lord Bew, who led the review of the national curriculum tests taken by 11-year-olds, recommends that teachers should judge children's creative writing, but pupils should still face official tests of spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as reading and maths.

Lord Bew said: "we unanimously believe these recommendations will lead to a better system, one that will do the jobs everyone wants it to do. It will improve standards, benefit pupils and be fairer for teachers. But it will still give parents the vital information they need and hold schools accountable.

"The importance of this issue cannot be over-stated – it affects hundreds of thousands of children, their teachers and their parents, both now and in the future. We must get it right."

The review says more data should be published to give a rounded picture of a school's performance, including new measures of the progress of lower-attaining pupils, and is also calling for a greater emphasis on the progress children make from their initial starting points, as well as their overall attainment.

Lord Bew recommends a three-year "rolling average" of performance be published.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We are pleased to see the professionalism of school leaders recognised and greater trust placed in teachers as the best judges of pupil progress.We are particularly encouraged that Lord Bew has recommended teacher assessment for writing and that far greater weight be given to teacher assessment overall. This will reduce drilling and give both parents and secondary schools a far more accurate picture of pupils' achievement."

Christine Blower of the NUT said: "Lord Bew wishes to focus more on accuracy, fluency and comprehension when testing children’s reading skills. Teachers test these skills on an on-going basis throughout the year and there is no need for a separate test. 

"We are concerned that this proposal may be about developing a similar test to that proposed for six-year-olds. Both will skew learning."

Heads have given a cautious welcome to the findings of the independent review.

Michael Gove, who set up the review last year, said external accountability at Key Stage 2 was vital because it was shown to drive up standards, but he agreed the current system was flawed and could be improved.

More than 4,000 schools boycotted the tests in 2010 (26 per cent of the 15,515 maintained schools expected to administer them). Heads at those schools, and others, argued the test results led to unfair league table rankings and meant children were drilled for the tests rather than given a broad education.

The report recommends that:

  • The current writing test should be replaced by teacher assessment of writing composition. This will ensure pupils can be more creative and will overcome the dangers of teaching to the test. This teacher assessment should always make up the larger part of any overall writing judgement.
  • As part of writing, there should be a spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary test. The panel believes a test will raise attainment in these areas and is appropriate because there are clear right or wrong answers.
  • Maths should continue to be externally tested.
  • Reading tests should continue but should be refined over time.
  • Science should continue to be teacher assessed with a sample test to monitor national standards.
  • Speaking and listening should continue to be teacher assessed.
  • Three-year rolling averages should be introduced to give a rounded picture of a school’s performance.
  • There should be a greater emphasis on the progress of pupils: • Progress should be one of the two headline published measures, alongside attainment. Any overall judgement of a school by the Government, local authorities or Ofsted should give at least as much weighting to progress as attainment.
  • There should be a strong focus on the progress of every pupil, as well as greater emphasis on the progress of each Year 6 cohort. A new progress measure should be introduced to focus on the performance of lower-attaining pupils. Schools which work hard to accelerate the progress of those who started with low prior attainment should be recognised. This will help stop schools focusing on children on the Level 3/4 borderline.
  • New progress and attainment measures should be introduced for pupils who have completed all of Years 5 and 6 in a school. This would recognise that schools should not be held wholly responsible for the performance of pupils who have just joined them.
  • Teacher assessment judgements should continue in English, maths and science, and should be submitted before test results are announced. This will mean more weight is attached to them and allow longer for these results to inform Year 7 teaching and learning.
  • Transition to secondary school should be eased for pupils and their new teachers. There should be more detailed reporting to secondary schools so Year 7 teachers know right from the outset a pupil’s attainment and the areas where extra work is needed.
  • Pupils who are ill on the day of a test should have a week to sit it, rather than two days.