COMMENT: Is it tests or league tables that need a rethink?

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Parents may have divided opinions over the news that Portsmouth hopes to blaze a trail by scrapping SATs test in schools. 

Some may see the Statutory Assessment Tests as a useful benchmarking exercise to assess a child’s progress and give an indication of the quality of teaching in a school.

They also help local education authorities to compile ‘league tables’ of school achievement, putting some establishments in a better light than others.

Critics of the tests see them as an unnecessary stress-inducing burden in the life of a schoolchild, introducing an element of scrutiny and pressure which can prove counter-productive.

Portsmouth city councillors will vote  next week on whether to lobby the government to end ‘unnecessary’ SATs tests in primary school, as well as other high-stakes testing.

Labour councillor Tom Coles, who has raised the motion, said: ‘I have got two children in primary school myself and I see the stress they go through at school.’

Mr Coles acknowledges the work done by schools to prepare children for the tests and to make them as stress-free as possible.

But if a school’s reputation and educational standing depend on its place in the league tables, pupils will surely pick up from teachers how important each individual’s success is.

And cabinet member for education, Cllr Suzy Horton, makes a valid point when she says it may not be the tests that are the problem, but the league tables themselves. 

She also points to the fact that the watchdog Ofsted exists to keep schools on their toes and their reports are available for all parents to read. It will be interesting to see what comes of Portsmouth’s vote.

Each child’s education matters, but does an individual contribution to a league table have any real value?