Scepticism about aim of reading and numeracy tests

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A majority of teachers in Wales are sceptical about the purpose of new national reading and numeracy tests, a survey by a teaching union has found.

More than 60 per cent of teachers surveyed believe that the Welsh government is far more concerned with assessing school performance than with informing subsequent teaching or tracking pupil progress.

Around the same number feel that the tests are not fit-for-purpose. 

The survey was carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Cymru to see what impact the new tests – for all learners in years 2 to 9 – were having on teaching and learning. The union says the results show that more work needs to be done before the tests are accepted as an unquestionable help to classroom practice.

It reports one teacher as commenting: “I am not against assessing progress in literacy and numeracy. I would like to feel that (the tests) are in place to support learners, rather than to measure schools’ performance.

“I feel that they have still not been standardised at a suitable level. I also have concerns that they are used to measure performance but are marked in schools with no external monitoring.”

Another stated that politicians needed to understand that “pupils (and teachers) should be rewarded for attaining beyond their expectations and capabilities and not punished if their best doesn’t allow them to meet inappropriate preconceived test standards not based on research into cognitive development”.

Although nearly three quarters of teachers had tried to use the results of the tests to inform their teaching, more than 25 per cent reported that either the results were not shared with them or that, in the words of one, “I analysed the results but it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know”.

Teachers were evenly split when it came to the reports generated for parents. Fifty per cent said they were not satisfied, and argued that the reports were not readily understandable.

Around half of teachers also reported that not all their pupils could access the tests and that there was confusion about which children could be exempted.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said: “The value of the new testing regime still needs to be proved. The Welsh government needs to heed the legitimate concerns about the consistency and suitability of the tests. 

“We hope that the tests are not simply about providing data for some flawed league table-type comparison of schools.”


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