A leading teachers’ union says there needs to be urgent reform of the system that ‘judges’ primary schools in England so it is fairer and better for children and schools.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has issued a list of proposals for the government to act on in a bid to achieve its aims.

The union’s interim director of policy, Julie McCulloch, said: “Primary schools play a vital role in developing children so helping them understand the world around them and giving a great start in life but schools can be judged harshly on a set of narrowly focused tests.”

She added: “Many people in primary education are worried about the impact of a high-stakes system. It drives schools into putting a great deal of resources and time to prepare children for tests rather than their broader learning and these tests present a one-dimensional view of primary schools.

“Our recommendation is to take some sting from the tests and make them a part of the way for schools to be judged rather than being the ‘be-all’ and ‘end-all’. It’s fair to schools and for children and we really want the government to commit to our recommendations.”

Teachers’ union recommendations

The teachers’ union recommendations include a call for the government to work alongside others to develop clearer aims for primary education in England and consider how school performance can be judged against those declared aims.

The Association of School and College Leaders also calls for:

  • OFSTED to ensure inspectors are not placing too much focus on SATs results and to take into account the wider curriculum beyond maths and English
  • A call for the government to either scrap or improve the Key Stage II writing assessment
  • Performance tables for primary schools to be based on results spread over three years rather than for one year’s assessment
  • There should no longer be a requirement for schools to label children as having ‘met’ or ‘not met’ expected standards in science when reports are sent to parents.

The teachers union is calling for the government to rethink its policy

Finally, the teachers’ union is also calling for the government to rethink its policy for the compulsory acadamisation of underperforming primary schools in the absence of any evidence that might help to improve those schools.

The report was compiled after consultation with a panel of assessment and primary school experts that were drawn together by the ASCL because of growing worries over the negative impact on children in schools with too focus being placed on Key Stage 2 SATs results.


More information

The full report from the Association of School and College Leaders is available.