SATs tests for 7-year-olds are to be scrapped, but not for at least six years, and it all hinges on controversial new baseline tests for reception children.
Justine Greening has this week confirmed plans to make key stage 1 SATs non-compulsory by 2023 and instead introduce a new baseline test for reception children.
Greening said today that the changes would “free up teachers to educate and inspire young children while holding schools to account in a proportionate and effective way”.
However, policy documents reveal that the scrapping of the key stage 1 SATs depends on the success of the new baseline measure, set to be first deployed in 2020, and could happen later than envisaged by the education secretary.
The government says it will make KS1 SATs non-statutory “as soon as the reception baseline assessment has become fully established”.
The decision not to scrap the tests earlier has been challenged by teaching unions.
Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, says the wait is “bad news for children, parents and education professionals”.
Officials say it is not possible to bring in the changes any sooner because data from the KS1 SATS are still needed to calculate the progress of primary school pupils.
Before 2023, there will be cohorts progressing through key stage 1 who started school before 2020 and will therefore not have taken the reception baseline test, the government says.
Having data from pupils who have sat both the baseline and KS1 SATs will enable officials to evaluate the correlation between the two tests, and provide assurances that the new baseline provides a “sufficiently strong correlation” to key stage 2.
The plan to introduce new baseline tests comes just two years after the government abandoned its last attempt, which ended in disaster.
The DfE says the new test will be a “teacher-mediated assessment”, which simply means the teacher will be present.
It will be developed “in conjunction with the teaching profession”, and aims to give “credit” to the work and progress achieved by teachers for their pupils, according to a government press release.
Speculation has surrounded the baseline assessment since three approved providers rolled out their assessments in September 2015, only for a study to later find they were not comparable and the project was effectively cancelled.
One provider, Early Excellence, developed an observation-based model of assessment which was favoured by the majority of primary schools.
The other two, Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, and the National Foundation for Education Research’s centre for assessment, created test-based models.
It is not clear from today’s announcement what kind of assessment any future test will be.
Julie McCulloch, a primary specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said a new baseline assessment in reception was “good for children and schools” because “schools will be given credit for a pupil’s progress through their whole time at primary school from the age of four to 11, instead of the current system which measures progress only from the age of seven.”
The government has also announced that its long-awaited multiplication tables test will be introduced for year 4 pupils from 2019.
The policy was first announced as part of the Conservatives’ general election manifesto in 2015 but focused on year 6 pupils, rather than year 4.