The Department for Education today released a statement confirming that the cross-bench peer Lord Bew will lead an inquiry into Key Stage 2 Sats.
The move was welcomed by teachers, who have long expressed concerns that the exams require excessive drilling of pupils. They are an ineffective measure for assessing the capacity of schools, especially those in more deprived areas.
The boycott of the exams earlier this year won broad support. Only yesterday it emerged that there were almost 23,500 official appeals against this year's English and Maths Sats results. Nearly ten percent of these complaints were upheld.
Having been roundly criticised, it is lightly that this report will lead to significant reform of the current assessment process.
The small panel will consist of the respected Lord Bew, two education experts, primary, secondary teachers and headteachers, some who boycotted the exams and observers from Ofsted.
The remit for the inquiry covers a variety of issues including how to make sure parents receive the best quality information and how to avoid the “perverse incentives” of teaching to the test. Key will be how best to retain accountability while implementing the coalition agenda of freeing schools from excessive external regulation.
Michael Gove has made it clear in the past that he is no fan of the tests in their current form, but believes in a need for 'rigorous' assessment at the end of KS2. Having rejected the calls from teaching unions for a system of internal assessment, it remains unclear which alternative the report will recommend.
The NUT welcomed the announcement, with Christine Blower calling the move “encouraging”, although she rightly criticised the fact that no practising teachers would be sitting on the panel.
The NAHT press release reflected the significance of the announcement for teachers who it said “feel deeply about this review. In the minds of most, its outcomes will be the key measure of trust in the profession.”
In terms of an immediate impact for schools, this review will come too late to affect the 2011 tests, and it is unclear if the unions will continue their boycott, and if the government will seek to enforce participation in what may by then be a redundant system.
Today’s announcement should be applauded as it represents a willingness to engage in dialogue over a very issue important issue. We are encouraged by the inclusion of education practitioners at the decision making table. Drawing on the wisdom of leading education professionals and school leaders is such an important feature of good education policy making.
The report is due to publish its conclusions in the middle of next year