Science Sats scrapped

By staff

Science tests for year six primary school pupils have been scrapped by the government.

Children’s secretary Ed Balls told the Commons they would be replaced by a more relaxed system of teacher assessment, in line with the conclusions of a report by the expert group on assessment out today, from next year.

Mr Balls said the expert group concludes that “enhanced teacher assessment” would work better in establishing “whether pupils have a firm grip of the practical nature of science and the skills to develop and apply scientific understanding”.

‘Stage not age’ test pilots will now take place while trials replacing the standards key stage two tests with single level tests in maths for pilot schools would be set up next year.

Mr Balls rejected calls on the government to drop key stage two tests entirely.

“The expert group is clear that would not be the right thing to do,” he added. “And independent surveys of parents show that the clear majority value the information that they provide.”

Shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove said, after “the fiasco of last year’s Sats tests”, now was “precisely the wrong time” to play down the importance of science in primary schools.

Mr Gove said GCSE students were being tested on whether stars could be viewed with microscopes or telescopes, whether seatbelts were safety features and whether the sun orbits around the Earth or vice versa.

“Is it any wonder the Royal Society says changes to the curriculum have been catastrophic?” he asked.

Mr Gove also questioned how, if it was right to have more information overall, it could also be right “to ensure we have less information” on science teaching in schools.

“He knows that parents support clear, rigorous and transparent testing,” he added.

Mr Balls responded by saying the changes being implemented were designed to improve exactly that.

“This will strengthen enjoyment and also the achievement of young people in science,” he pressed.

Pupils will continue to be tested at the end of year six on English and maths.

Controversy over the tests has seen threats of strike action by teachers unions, and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are still planning on holding ballots on a boycott of next year’s exams.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “If there is a concern that tests are turning young children off science, then the same is true for English and maths.

“If anything, this move will simply narrow the curriculum further because it will encourage schools to concentrate on two subjects instead of three.”

Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws said: “Sats are the wrong way to test pupils at the end of primary education, so only scrapping the science exam is just not enough.

“The government should slim down the tests and use more teacher assessment, with external checks to ensure the standard is high.”