I’d like to believe Jeremy Corbyn truly and wholly believes that SATs should be banned rather than this simply being a piece of politicking.
I freely admit it would, for example, be politically adept to make this case because of increasing parental dissatisfaction with SATs – in particular the stress this causes their children – and with the continued criticism from teachers themselves and other educational professionals. Therefore Corbyn, and Labour, would be appealing to a ‘ready’ market come the next general election.
I want to also stress it would be sensible for Corbyn to indulge in some clever and effective politicking, because I’m not convinced he or the Labour Party have an operative grip on this when presentation can matter as much as, or more than, policies – rightly or wrongly [well, of course it’s the latter, but…]. I would also go some way to agreeing with this stance, even if not as substantial as I’d ultimately like, because we all make politically skewed choices, and mine is between the inherently good and the inherently bad – Labour/Conservative – and thus I would always support the former for being on the ‘good’ end of the moral, intellectual and in-practice spectrum.
That acknowledged, I will never forget it was Labour in 1997 who continued wholeheartedly with the then SATs regimes and promoted and supported the testing and targeting culture from then to its grotesquery of today. Ed Balls as Education Secretary did ban Key Stage 3 SATs, but the rest remained and it all has been consolidated under the Conservative government.
I have written plenty on this previously so my reason for doing so today is the odious intervention of Schools Minister Nick Gibb and his tweet earlier:
The reason Corbyn and his education team need to articulate more precisely the objection to SATs is to counter Gibb’s regular defense of them, a defense I have also often unpicked on this blog, especially regarding the English subject SATs. The argument against them has to be more than the stress caused to primary pupils planning for and then taking them, as significant and detrimental as this is.
If Labour has a pro-active ‘education’ think tank it needs to get acting quickly and fire back some counter shots to these Gibb-lite throwaway assertions. For example, I have always argued from my subject-based knowledge, which is English, and it should be easy to challenge the soundbite notion that English SATs are ‘high-quality’. They are demonstrably not! And they are more often than not totally meaningless.
How would removing SATs ‘lower standards’? Is this a direct criticism of and attack on the integrity and effectiveness of all teachers in the classroom? That is the extrapolation one must make about teacher assessment [as the alternative to SATs] and would contradict Damien Hinds’ proclamations of late on teachers’ professionalism and how we should trust this – unless these are just sops to teacher sensitivities…
How would removing SATs ‘increase teacher workload’? I think this is the most absurd claim from Gibb. As teaching is and always has been the core elements of teaching/learning and assessing, how does on-going classroom teacher assessment become an extra burden over and above the colossal extra of teaching and preparing for SATs? This needs a quick and cogent challenge from Labour, the quickness being of the essence as the latter is very simple to express.
We know that SATs have the fundamental burden of being augmented as pressure because of the targeting culture they feed and the judgemental weight this carries. Of course, you don’t remove scrutiny by relying on teacher assessment, nor the weight of this both in terms of its value directly back to students/pupils but also the professional commitment placed on teachers. What you do is make national provision for training and moderating and therefore professionally enhancing and securing its reliability and meaningfulness.