Monday, September 24, 2007
Any sane person might believe that if every organisation, quango or expert was giving the same advice the government would listen. Think again. Asked to give evidence on testing in schools to the House of Commons Education Select Committee, there were 51 submissions asking for change. Among them were-
· Scientific and maths organisations like the Royal Society
· The five teachers’ unions
· The General Teaching Council
· The OCR exam board
Even Ofsted called for change but also had the temerity this week to blame truancy on ‘boring lessons’, nothing to do with the testing culture of course, just useless teachers. Reminded me of Doctor Frankenstein refusing to take responsibility for the monster he had created.
Naturally the Select Committee are taking their time, the submissions were made in July but sometime in November they will get round to reviewing them. Now I know that teachers get a lot of stick for the amount of holidays we get, but when it comes to MPs you really are talking about most of the summer and autumn. Naturally they need time for their consultancies, directorships and appearances on Celebrity Big Brother. How is one to manage on the paltry wages?
Predictably, the one organisation to support testing was the Department for Children, Schools and Families, “The benefits of a national system of assessment have been immense.”
I don’t see the testing system changing any time soon. When does this government ever listen? The exceptions? The great ‘Fuel Tax Revolt’ – which was part popular uprising, Poujadist protest and reactionary insurrection (some of the leaders later stood as BNP candidates). Faced with this groundswell, the government swiftly made concessions, fearing that the contagion would spread. This week with queues growing exponentially outside branches of Northern Rock we had the bail out of the building societies, although the government was able to pose as the ‘friend’ of the small investor. Shame this wasn’t extended to the thousands of pensioners who lost everything when their bosses raided the company pension fund.
Who could scrap testing? Teachers. The NUT balloted primary school members in 2003 and 86% were prepared to take strike action, but the turnout was only 34% and ‘union rules’ stipulated that it had to be 50%. There was a very effective ‘Anti-SATs Campaign’ that went into hibernation after the result. Now is the time to re-ballot.
The DCSF have pointed to trials of new tests, which pupils will take twice a year as an alternative. Don’t be fooled they are worse than SATs, they are just SATs writ large for every year in Key Stage 2 and pupils are expected to move up two sub levels each year i.e., 3C to 3A. This would inevitably be used in Performance Management and to inform Payment by Results.
This sounds to me like another sham ‘consultation’. The one organisation that didn’t feature was ‘The Daily Mail’ and of course Rupert Murdoch – between them they inform every decision made by this government.
Read Warwick Mansell ‘Education by Numbers’