A mix of ideological zeal and incompetence means that over half of the children taking the recent SATS papers failed to reach the ‘age expected’ norm in at least one of the tests. The reading test for these 10 and 11-year-olds had an estimated reading age of 16 and led to an inevitable decline from 80% reaching the ‘age expected’ level last year, to 66% this year. Put simply, if you had British middle-class parents who used an expansive vocabulary then you probably did okay. If you were bright, but English was your second language, or you came from a more working class area, then you were at a natural disadvantage. Even so, the children who did manage to pass did so by answering less than half of the questions correctly. What set of idiots would make a test so hard that you can pass it by answering 21 out of 50 questions correctly? Probably the same idiots who create a pair of tests where the results for reading are way below those for writing, which doesn’t make any sense if you think about it for more than a second.
As Minister for education Michael Gove made a mess of our education system and his successor, Nicky Morgan, picked up and ran with his legacy. They are not idiots, so one has to ask if their sole purpose in designing tests that children will inevitably fail has been to fragment and destroy a state-run education system so that it can be passed into private hands?
Creating a generation of childhood failures was not the primary purpose of these tests. The children have been put under stress and will have come out of the exam feeling they haven’t done well, but the good teachers will have reassured them that it was all okay. The real purpose of the test results was to create a generation of teachers and schools who are labelled as failures. This is a necessary prerequisite for forcing academy status onto schools and transferring several billion pounds of public assets into private hands.
The Green Party has never been a big fan of the conveyor belt testing of children, nor Ofsted, nor Academies, but the Government is using all these New Labour creations for its own ideological purposes. The Conservative Party is funded by people who run the Academy chains and they are now getting a payback on that investment. Along with the promotion of free schools, it means a disintegration of national pay bargaining and professional standard setting. It is one of the biggest centralisations of power for a generation, with local authorities losing control over schools and placing power in the hands of Whitehall. It means public assets like land and school playing fields being handed over to groups of people who are not accountable to either parents or elected councillors.
Stopping the rush to academy status is no longer sufficient. The next Government can’t simply reverse the process. We have to come up with a plan that makes schools accountable to the parents and the local community they serve. We need a plan that values good teachers and allows them to get on with teaching. We also need to allow children to enjoy the process of learning and to thrive as successes, not failures.