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Government plans to axe SATs tests for seven-year-olds

National curriculum tests taken by seven-year-olds in England are set to be axed under Government proposals.

Instead, there will be a new teacher assessment of four and five-year-olds when they start infant school.

The move will help to "reduce the burden" of assessment on teachers and pupils, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

One union leader said the possibility of ending Key Stage 1 testing was "good news" and would give schools more time to focus on teaching, rather than "high-stakes assessment".

Education Secretary Justine Greening said: "The Government has reformed the primary school system to make sure children can master the basics of literacy and numeracy so they get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in later life.

"Now we want to build on that by developing a stable assessment system that helps children learn, while freeing up teachers to do what they do best - supporting children to fulfil their potential."

Under the plans, the tests - known as SATs - in reading, writing, maths and science, which are taken by more than half a million youngsters each year, will no longer be statutory.

The proposed new baseline assessment will take place at some point during a child's reception year, but pupils should not know that they are being tested, the DfE said.

The results will be used as a marker of children's abilities at the start of their schooling and be used to measure the progress youngsters have made by age 11, at the end of primary school.

It means that schools will be held to account for the progress that children make throughout their primary school career.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "The possibility of ending Key Stage 1 SATs is good news.

"This creates the time and space in a pupil's primary years for teachers to focus on teaching rather than on high-stakes assessment.

"It will properly reward early intervention and it will reduce workload.

"Overall, minimising the number of high-stakes tests is the right way to go.

"This will help every school to deliver a rich educational experience for all children."

Teaching unions have long called for an overhaul of primary school testing, arguing that children are assessed too often, and that testing puts pressure on youngsters at an early age.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Ms Greening has been listening - but only partially.

"The consultation floats the idea that statutory assessment at KS1 will be set aside, but not until the early 2020s.

"This would be a welcome concession to the thousands of teachers who have protested against the effects of a test-driven curriculum on six and seven-year-olds.

"But the relief that is offered at one stage of education is accompanied by changes for the worse for younger age groups.

"In a triumph of hope over experience, the DfE wants to reintroduce baseline testing to the early years, despite its failure in 2015/16.

"The DfE wants to believe that the test results of a five-year-old can reasonably predict their performance at 11, so that the school system can be held to account if children do not make the 'expected' progress.

"In fact there is a wealth of evidence that points the other way."

The Government is consulting on the proposals, which also includes making improvements to the early years foundation stage - which records young children's progress up to age five.

SATs tests for seven-year-olds will go ahead this year, with some improvements, including changes to the type and difficulty of questions at the start of the tests, to ensure children are not discouraged by tough questions early on.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "This consultation seems to be setting the stage for yet another embarrassing climbdown in just the latest sign of a government in chaos over education policy.

"Primary school test papers have been leaked online, assessments have been scrapped at the last minute, and last year only half of all children met the expected standards in their SATs. It is no wonder they are now having to consult on scrapping some of the tests."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "ATL welcomes today's proposals that could see the end of national tests for seven-year-olds. We have long campaigned for an end to national testing for all primary school children and we are pleased that the Government appears, finally, to be listening.

"As we learned from last year's tests, seven-year-olds are too young for formal exams and suffer stress and worry at a time when they're supposed to be learning to love school and grow in confidence rather than fearing failure.

"In today's proposals, the Government also suggests reintroducing baseline assessment at the start of school.

"We have shown through our research that national assessment of five-year-olds disrupts the start of school at a time when young children need to feel settled, not judged.

"Every teacher uses their expertise to assess where every child starts and how they need to develop, so we question whether this needs a Government-prescribed assessment which isn't reliable enough to provide a measure of progress."

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