The DCSF and educational authorities are facing a dilemma. How do they efficiently measure school performance without interrupting the learning process for children and overwhelming the teaching resources? Universally teachers belonging ot the National Union Of Teachers NUT and National Association of Head Teachers NAHT will demonstrate their frustration with the process by boycotting the SAT’s scheduled to be held this week.
Checks and balances are an essential management tool. They monitor performance revealing achievement and areas of concern. Yet within the school environment these Key performance indicators (KPI) have ironically displaced the very learning process they are designed to measure. Teachers, concerned that the SAT’s statutory assessment tests denude the national curriculum are refusing to support the SAT’s tests scheduled for this week. But there is a further dilemma. Teachers believe the downside of SAT’s has resulted in the “teach to test” syndrome which has narrowed the curriculum. To improve performance most schools defer all new learning for the nine weeks leading up to the tests and spend this time practising for the test. An unanswered question is whether the children involved as a consequence of the boycott were groomed for the tests, or have received nine weeks of ongoing education. Similarly if subsequently forced to complete the SAT’s will they have the same chance as groomed children. If Head Teachers involved in the conflict have prepared the children anyway this would leave them double losers. The decision to groom or not was taken some months ago.
Understandably the government and Ed balls are attempting to counter this resistance with threats of retribution levelled at head teachers and school staff refusing to support SAT’s. Yet the level of resistance is a sure sign that something is wrong. It would be crass for the DCSF to ignore what is a national rebellion. Teachers see the operational pros and cons of the national curriculum at the coal face. Their opinion must be heard. Surely the universal rejection – even allowing for an element of mass hysteria must be viewed as a negative KPI on the government. The DCSF could be judged as being in default and need to review its teaching assessment programme accordingly.
We in the UK are not alone. The feeling that children’s education in literacy and numeracy is being interrupted by needless tests is also under a revolt by teachers in Australia. Teachers there are also refusing to handle the SAT’s tests. Interestingly the Australian education authority has reacted in similar fashion to the UK. But there is huge difference; the Australian educational authorities claim to have 3,000 examiners in reserve to handle the tests. But the question now is what additional educational benefit could be gained in children’s educational progress if these 3,000 additional teachers were actually engaged in expanding the curriculum instead manning tests.
The defiance by teachers has doubled significant. We are about to see a stalwart of society, responsible for the education of our children and a significant influence on their attitudes, whose actions are breaking the law. This can send out mixed messages. Clearly the DCSF need some means of measuring a schools performance but if the current system is flawed to the extent where teachers are prepared to break the law something needs to done. It is a great shame that The DCSF failed to acknowledge this level of disquiet and modified their approach before this conflict was elevated to the extend we are to see this week.