Teachers claim tougher SATs will lead to ‘school land grab’

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The Government’s plans to introduce new school tests could have far reaching consequences, according to some in the profession. Neil Hudson reports

In a few week’s time primary school children across the country will sit down to take tests which the majority of their teachers deem to be “age inappropriate”.

The Government introduced new tougher Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) in February, reneging on a previous pledge to give teachers up to a year’s notice of any changes, according to teachers. At the same time, they also swept away the existing assessment framework - the methods used to score the tests - replacing it with one which the National Union of Teachers (NUT) claims will mean more work for its members.

Some in the NUT have even gone so far as to suggest the new tougher SATs have an ulterior motive, as they believe many schools will fall short of expectations, which they claim will make it easier for the Government to force them to become academies.

Hazel Danson, secretary of Kirklees NUT and a member of the union’s national executive went even further and labelled the move “a blatant land grab”, explaining: “Once a school becomes an academy, their land is no longer leased to it from the local authority but would transfer straight to the Government. This is land worth billions of pounds, in prime locations.”

Ms Danson, a primary school teacher since 1991, said the new SATs were widely unpopular with staff and parents alike.

“The new tests are a lot harder than the previous SATs, they are setting questions for seven-year-olds which we would normally only expect eight-year-olds to answer. They only brought in the new tests in February, whereas previously they said they would give us a year’s notice.”

She described some of the guidance as “bizarre”, citing advice which says exclamation marks should only be used in sentences beginning ‘What’ or ‘How’.

She added: “For a Government which has continually talked about localism, this is completely the opposite. The SATs are being used as an instrument to force the privatisation of schools and the transfer of land to the Government.”

The NUT issued a statement in which it decried the new tests and how they would be assessed, citing “anger and dismay” among staff and accusing the Government of “overloading of pupils with work” and “political micro-management.”

It said: “The demands of testing narrow the focus of primary education to a constricted notion of numeracy and literacy. Few parents will wish this for their children. The union believes that government should sit down with teachers and rethink what children should be learning.”

Two facebook groups - Let Kids Be Kids and Parents Support Teachers are also opposed to the plans.

Ian Stevenson, regional NUT secretary for Yorkshire Midlands, said: “We object to the way the new SATs have been introduced. Some of the assessment are impossible to teach in the time given. Under this regime, children will be tested to destruction and teachers will be teaching them purely to pass tests.”

A spokesman from the DfE said: “Parents expect their children to master basic literacy and numeracy skills before they leave primary school and that’s what these are focussed on. Recent statistics showed this was not happening and we are trying our best to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“In terms of timing, all the documents have been available since September. We have been and will continue to work with the unions. Obviously, when we make changes, there’s a transition involved.”

The DfE said claims SATs were being used to force academy status on schools were “absolute nonsense”, adding: “Safeguards are put in place to ensure academies cannot sell or change the use of land without permission from the Secretary of State.”

Have your say on the issue by emailing eped@ypn.co.uk

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