Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Problems with SATs not yet over

ASCL welcomed and backed the decision by the QCA to pull the contract from ETS to administer the SATs tests in 2009. "The many schools that were on the receiving end of this fiasco will undoubtedly feel some sense of vindication," said John Dunford.

However, ASCL has warned that the short lead time means that schools are likely to face problems again next year. John said: "Nine months is an incredibly short time in which to appoint a new provider, prepare the infrastructure, and recruit and train markers. Many markers have lost confidence in the system and, even with ETS out of the picture, it will be difficult to deliver a wholly successful system in 2009."

The exams regulator, Ofqual, is pushing ahead with the inquiry by Lord Sutherland into the problems with this year's SATs results, which will conclude in the autumn. The Conservatives have asked Sir Richard Sykes to carry out a separate inquiry.

ASCL has written to both sides to urge them to recommend a full-scale review of the SATs tests. "In the long-term, appointing a new administrator for these tests is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," John said.

"The testing and examination system is sinking under its own weight and it is time for the government to examine seriously how it can streamline the assessment regime and again make it fit for purpose."

In a recent article in the Times Educational Supplement, John Dunford suggested that the rollout of the functional skills tests in the next two years means it is the ideal time to phase out Key Stage 3 tests. Functional skills tests, he argued, cannot be added to an already overburdened exams system without taking something away.

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