The new check will serve two purposes:
- ‘Help’ teachers to spot children at risk of being left behind.
- Hold teachers to account for how the children perform.
Ok, so here are some problems with this idea:
- This test has been designed to improve our children’s numeracy, but it focuses on a very narrow part of the maths curriculum and is essentially a memory test – times table knowledge alone does not make a mathematician and it’s entirely feasible that maths teaching will be distorted to focus on preparation for this test at the expense of other areas.
- The test is taken against the clock – by upping the pressure on the children taking part, their performance could be impacted by the design of the test, knocking the confidence of these children and perhaps putting them off maths for life. Furthermore, this test will be taken toward the end of primary school. If the purpose is about supporting children in securing their times table knowledge, isn’t the timing a bit off?
- This is yet another formal assessment in primary school – we already have the baseline assessment, phonics check, phonics re-sit, KS1 SATs, KS2 SATs, and the new SATs re-sit – do our children really need this many formal “checks” at primary school? No other country in the world has this many tests – including those rated highest by PISA.
- An online test… how on earth will this be administered? Will all children have to take the test at once? What will happen to their data? How much information will the teacher get back (to help them identify children who require support)? Moving from a pilot of 3,000 to a full year cohort is a massive challenge – how will the DfE ensure that the system can take the numbers? (Because big ICT projects have gone so well for Governments in recent years…!)
- What if parents don’t want their child to take the test? Will they be able to withdraw their child? Will schools be penalised for the results of children with SEN who are not able to pass the test at age 11?
- Who is paying for this test? Creating these big assessments costs money – someone will have to design the test, someone else will build the program that administers it, then we’ll have people handling the data, others training teachers how to run the test, then we have the cost of supervising the test through cover or invigilators… this is expensive. Our school budgets are under huge strain at the moment – wouldn’t this money be better spent elsewhere? (The reception baseline assessment is expected to cost at least £4.5 million this year…)
This test has been sold to the public with a misleading claim – that this check will help teachers support children that don’t know their times tables yet. Teachers already do this, and it demonstrates a complete lack of trust in their professionalism to suggest that without a government administered test children won’t get the teacher support they need.
The true aim appears to be much darker – this government is determined to convert all schools to academies by 2020. Many secondary schools are already academies, but the majority of primary schools remain local authority schools. The results of this test will be used to force primary schools to convert to academies and create an environment of joyless learning.