Head’s fears on county testing

A north Northumberland headteacher has raised concerns about countywide testing, which is being introduced in the aftermath of last year’s disastrous Ofsted reports.

One of the key criticisms in last year’s inspection report for the local authority was related to the data passed between schools – made worse by the fact that in Northumberland it happens twice, from first to middle and middle to high school.

The county council’s solution is to carry out ‘a simple programme of standard assessments of all pupils at the end of Year 4 and Year 8’.

But one head, who did not wish to be named, has raised a number of issues, including the manner in which the county council has gone about the process.

“My first concern is the quality of the information we are going to get,” she said. “They are going to give a standardised mark rather than a National Curriculum level.

“My second concern is that school support officers are going to be administering the tests and they don’t have a school background, they are administrators. In some schools, it could be difficult for them to manage a large number of children.

“My third concern is that in point six (of a document given to headteachers), the tone of the letter is quite threatening.”

In that section, it refers to schools refusing to take the assessments, which would lead to the county council considering whether, taken with other information, ‘there might be reasons for the local authority to make use of its statutory powers to address concerns about the leadership and management of the school’.

The headteacher said: “They won’t be able to raise standards without the support and co-operation of headteachers and schools.”

Her suggestion was to improve moderation by allowing schools to meet up with a sample of work to develop a consensus on marking and stop schools getting the levels wrong.

Daljit Lally, executive director of wellbeing and community health services at the county council, explained that the council has introduced literacy and numeracy assessments as a ‘specific response’ to Ofsted’s criticism of the quality of information when pupils transfer from one school to the next.

“The assessments will be a useful benchmarking tool for schools and are in line with National Curriculum sub-levels used in teacher assessments and end of key stage national tests,” she said.

“They will be used by schools and the council to help validate the current assessment arrangements in all our schools.

“The assessments will be administered by the council and used as a comparison with teacher assessments to ensure standardisation across the whole county, creating a better and fairer educational experience for every child.”