Releasing SATs marking guidance ‘would increase teacher workload’, claim ministers

The government has refused to release its SATs marking guidance, claiming it would increase teachers’ workloads and increase pupil stress.

The Standards and Testing Agency says it will not release the guidance under the Freedom of Information act, and claims it could lead to teaching to the test.

Criticism and confusion over this year’s key stage 2 SATs results had prompted calls for the government to release the guidance, which was only handed to SATs markers after the tests were taken this year.

But the STA says ministers believe publishing the guidance could “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”, and is withholding it under section 36 of the Freedom of Information Act.

In its response to an FoI request from Sophie Bee, a teacher, the STA said disclosure of the information “would be likely to add to teacher/school workload”, because teachers “may use [it] to plan their lessons to teach to the test”, rather than the full curriculum.

“This is likely to risk adding to teacher, and in turn pupil, stress,” the response continued.

The response also warns that the marking guidance is “highly likely to be misunderstood” without expert explanatory guidance.

Officials also fear that subject experts and others involved in developing the guidance could become “more cautious about providing robust and comprehensive marking guidance”, putting “consistency, objectivity and fairness” at risk.

The STA does accept that releasing the document would help dispel myths about the guidance being “secret or something nefarious” and would give officials the opportunity to provide context about how materials are developed and used.

However, it concluded that its release would “not be in the public interest”.

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  1. I am really unsure how operating within a fully transparent system increases any stress for the stakeholders involved (particularly the kids or their parents). However, stress for teachers is more than likely caused by last minute changes to important elements of the accountability system; failing to disclose important information that relates to significant, last minute change and working in a period of uncertainty. Please can we sort this stuff out as if there is to be only high stakes accountability then we need to ensure that all systems are sufficiently robust to enable this to be so.