Post by Norman Wells Post by pensive hamster
21 February 2017
'... As one former teacher, Zoe Brown, who quit last year,
told The Independent: “In some ways I don’t feel like a
teacher at all anymore. I prepare children for tests and, if
I’m honest, I do it quite well. It’s not something I’m particularly
proud of, as it’s not as if I have provided my class with any
transferable, real-life skills during the process. They’ve not
enjoyed it, I’ve not enjoyed it, but we’ve done it: one thing my
children know how to do is answer test questions.”
She appears to be saying that reading, grammar, punctuation and
spelling, maths, speaking and listening, writing and science, which are
what the kids are tested on are not 'transferable real-life skills'.
Well, they're not cooking, ironing, decorating and having babies, that's
true. But they are basic academic necessities, and I for one consider
them to be just the sort of transferable real-life skills that should be
taught in schools. They are the necessary springboard for everything
else. Other non-academic or more fun things can follow or be taught at
You seem to think that 'academic' and 'transferable real-life skills'
are synonymous. There is some overlap, but some aspects are
Drama, for example, can help draw a child out, and give them
confidence in speaking and communicating, in a way that learning
the correct terms for various grammatical constructions cannot.
But testing knowledge of grammatical terms is much easier than
testing dramatic performance.
As the Parliamentary Select Committee put it (in Civil Servant
'3. We consider that the over-emphasis on the importance of
national tests, which address only a limited part of the National
Curriculum and a limited range of children's skills and knowledge
has resulted in teachers narrowing their focus. Teachers who
feel compelled to focus on that part of the curriculum which is
likely to be tested may feel less able to use the full range of their
creative abilities in the classroom and find it more difficult to explore
the curriculum in an interesting and motivational way. We are
concerned that the professional abilities of teachers are, therefore,
under-used and that some children may suffer as a result of a
limited educational diet focussed on testing....'
Or as this article puts it:
May 14, 2013
A new grammar test being sat today by thousands of Year 6
pupils misses the purpose of communicating, the National
Association of Head Teachers has warned.
The test, which quizzes youngsters on spelling, punctuation
and grammar (SPaG), has been brought in amid Government
concerns about literacy standards.
It consists of a 45-minute paper on grammar, followed by a
15-minute spelling test on 20 commonly misspelt words
including "separate", "preferred" and "necessary".
Ministers claim the new SPaG test, which will be sat by
11-year-olds as part of the annual Sats tests, will help to raise
standards for thousands of children.
But the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) fears
the test fails to assess pupils’ ability to communicate.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: “The teaching
of grammar, spelling and punctuation is vital.
“It is important that children learn to communicate clearly and
– as far as possible – elegantly; knowledge of the rules of
language helps them to do so.
“We should not, however, confuse testing with teaching.
“The new test focuses on the knowledge of grammar in the
abstract; it tells us nothing about how someone uses that
knowledge to communicate.
“Just because you can circle an adverb in a multiple choice
test does not mean you know how to use an adverb appropriately”.
The NAHT, an independent trade union and professional association,
believes assessing a child’s portfolio of work is a better indicator of
their ability to use technical English.
Mr Hobby said: “We already have a better test, which is the
assessment of the student’s portfolio of work from across year six.
“Why limit ourselves to whether someone can spot an adverb, when
we can examine how they use them?
“Why limit ourselves to the spellings of 20 words, when we can
look at the spellings of thousands?
“Even the government’s own experts agree that the technical
aspects of English are best assessed in the context of a full
Writing in the Guardian earlier this month Michael Rosen said:
"There is no evidence that teaching 10- and 11-year-old children
the kind of grammar questions that they will face in next week's
Spag test will help them to do anything better.
"The reasons are obvious: the work involved is highly abstract;
talking about bits of grammar separately from the children's
reading, speaking and writing is almost meaningless."
Post by Norman Wells Post by pensive hamster
And the Parliamentary Select Committee on Children, Schools
7. We believe that the system is now out of balance in
the sense that the drive to meet government-set targets has
too often become the goal rather than the means to the end of
providing the best possible education for all children. This is
demonstrated in phenomena such as teaching to the test,
narrowing the curriculum and focussing disproportionate
resources on borderline pupils. We urge the Government to
reconsider its approach in order to create incentives to
schools to teach the whole curriculum and acknowledge
children's achievements in the full range of the curriculum.
That seems to me to be an argument for extending the SATS tests, not
If by "extending the SATS tests", you mean "broadening (that's a
gerund or present participle btw) the SATs tests" and attempting to
assess a wider range of skills, then I might not disagree.