Ofsted should not be as focused on SATS

ASCL raises concerns that Ofsted judgements are overly driven by SATS results

Published on 2nd March 2018

Ofsted inspectors should not place too much focus on SATS results, the Association of School and College Leaders has warned.

The Association has called for reforms to the system for judging primary schools in England to make it better for children and fairer on schools.

ASCL Interim Director of Policy Julie McCulloch, author of the ASCL report published today, said: “Primary schools play such a vital role in developing children, in helping them to understand the world in which they live and in giving them a great start in life, but these schools can be judged very harshly on a single set of narrowly focused tests.

“Many people in primary education and beyond are concerned about the impact of this high-stakes system. It drives schools into putting a great deal of time and resource into preparing children for these tests rather than their broader learning, and presents a very one-dimensional view of primary schools,” she added.

The report was produced by ASCL because of concerns about the negative impact on schools and children of the intense focus placed on Key Stage 2 SATs results.

School performance tables are based largely on this single set of tests in English and maths which are taken by 11-year-olds during one week in May at the end of seven years of schooling. There are also concerns that Ofsted inspections are overly driven by these results.

The consequences for schools deemed to be underperforming can be severe, including local authority schools being forced to become an academy or existing academies being transferred to another trust.

The report says that Ofsted should ensure that inspectors do not place too much focus on SATs results and take into account the wider curriculum beyond English and maths. Ofsted inspections are intended to provide a broader and more balanced view of the effectiveness of a school than just SATs results, but there are concerns that Ofsted judgements are overly driven by these results and that inspectors place too much focus on English and maths, seldom mentioning other subjects. The report says that Ofsted should ensure that the importance of SATs results is kept in proportion and that Ofsted should commit to commenting more frequently in inspection reports on subjects other than English and maths.

It also calls for the government to work with others to develop clear aims for primary education and consider how the performance of schools can be judged against those aims saying there is no clear, shared vision for what we want our schools to achieve and therefore an inherent difficulty in saying how they should be measured.

It also recommends:

  • The government should look into how to improve the Key Stage 2 writing assessment, or scrap it completely
  • Primary school performance tables should be based on results over three years rather than on a single year’s assessment
  • Schools should no longer be required to label children as having ‘met’ or ‘not met’ the expected standard in SATs reports sent home to parents
  • The government should rethink its policy on compulsory academisation in the absence of evidence that it helps to improve schools

Julie McCulloch concluded: Our recommendations would take some of the sting out of these tests, making them part of the way in which schools are judged rather than the be-all and end-all. That is fairer to schools and better for children and we urge the government to commit to these recommendations.”

The full report: ‘Sense and Accountability: Holding our primary schools to account for what matters most. Final report of the ASCL Primary Accountability Review’.


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