Socialist Worker

Tests - could we do without them?

Issue No. 1848

SCRAPPING THE SATs tests would benefit, not harm, children's education. That's the clear evidence from Wales, where the Assembly has scrapped the tests for seven year olds. Over the last year inspectors, head teachers and various forms of assessment all point to rising standards in Welsh schools.

The Assembly has also scrapped the league tables that rank schools according to their pupils' SATs results. That enforced competition between schools is the central reason why SATs were introduced, and why the government refuses to abolish them. League tables have led to a systematic attack on comprehensive education.

Schools in leafy suburbs unsurprisingly come top. Those in poorer areas are concentrated at the bottom. Under New Labour's market system school funding follows pupils. So 'unattractive schools' at the lower end of the league tables struggle to find pupils and get less money as a result.

This vicious circle means there is now a two-tier education system. A recent study of 31 countries showed England had the sixth greatest difference in educational achievement between the most and least disadvantaged children. Scrapping tests would be a huge blow to the government's entire divisive education policy.

It would make league tables impossible, and benefit millions of children's education.

Class in the classroom

POVERTY HAS a huge impact on how well pupils do at school. New evidence presented last week shows that in the 100 schools with the highest number of pupils on free school meals only around 30 percent of students gain five Cs at GCSE or above.

The situation is completely reversed in the 100 schools with the lowest number on free school meals. There 93 percent of students get five grade Cs or above.

EDUCATION minister Charles Clarke has been accused of bias after the schools in his Norwich constituency received a special allocation of £1.6 million. This is the second highest allocation of funds for any education authority in the country.

'The rich don't want the SATs'

'IN MY resources cupboard at school I have a video about Eton, which I use as a stimulus for discussion. Once you've got beyond the silly clothes and barmy traditions, one thing smacks you between the eyes.

The quality of what is on offer is astonishing - high-tech design equipment, satellite feeds for language teaching, vigorous contemporary progressive teaching in the arts.

And they do not have the SATs. No national testing for the sons of our rulers. Contrast that with the thin and measly fare of the lesson fished off the internet and delivered by a beleaguered supply teacher, which is the lot of many of our children.

If these tests were any good, make no mistake - the rich would have collared them for themselves by now. We heard a speaker from the US teachers' union describe the 'stack 'em deep, teach 'em cheap' approach over there and we all nodded our heads in acknowledgement.

This isn't a temporary local fault. It's part of a global strategy that divides all children into haves and have-nots. By saying no to SATs we're saying no to that view of education and that view of the world.'
Jon Berry, Hertfordshire

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Article information

Sat 26 Apr 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1848
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