No science tests in primary schools

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They will be replaced by a less formal system of ‘teacher assessment’ to encourage more experiments and group work in the classroom. But exams in English and mathematics will remain at the end of primary school, ministers will announce today. A panel of experts was established by Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, to reform the way children aged five to 14 are assessed in England. At the moment, children take Sats tests in reading, writing, maths and science in the final year of primary education.

The group’s report – being published on Thursday – will stop short of demanding the all-out abolition of Sats, but it is likely to downgrade science. Science tests are expected to be replaced with a ‘beefed up’ system of classroom assessment, in which teachers log children’s progress during a series of set pieces of work. It follows concerns that existing tests fail to properly measure children’s grasp of the subject.

The new-style system will allow for more experiments to be completed in small groups. The expert panel, which includes Sir Jim Rose, who led a recent overhaul of the primary curriculum, will also call for computing to be put on an equal footing with science between the age of seven and 11. Teachers will be expected to assess pupils’ skills in ICT (information and communication technology) in a similar way.

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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.’

The report will also make recommendations about how schools can ensure preparation for Sats is, ‘proportionate educationally appropriate”. It follows criticism that Sats encourage schools to “teach to the test,’ dropping other subjects such as history, geography, PE and art to give pupils exam coaching. In a further move, it will endorse Government plans for new-style “report cards” to give parents more information about children’s progress at school.

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