Moran: Time to end ‘teaching to the test’ culture

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran today used a speech at the National Education Union to demand an end to the ‘teaching to the test’ culture by scrapping league tables, Ofsted and high-stakes testing in primary schools.

Speaking at the conference, Ms Moran warned that the Government cannot create an education system that gives every child the “opportunity to flourish” when teachers are “over-worked, under-paid and pressured to the point of sickness.”

Ms Moran also encouraged delegates to contribute to her newly launched independent Education Commission’s call for evidence. The Commission intends to develop a vision for the school system of the future.

On Ofsted, she said;

The Ofsted brand is fundamentally broken. It has long ago lost the trust of the teaching profession. Which is why I think tinkering around the edges simply isn’t enough. We need a complete overhaul, replacing this inspection scheme altogether.

So I propose build a system which looks at the culture of a school and focuses on the wellbeing of teachers and pupils, as much as on academic results.

Where a school is struggling, the system should support that school to improve, not punish it. This system should be led by teachers, for teachers – with peer-to-peer support to help schools where they need to do better.

On league tables:

Why is it that Government continues to publish state-sanctioned league tables? Why encourage schools to compete so ferociously for the highest number, forgetting their true purpose of improving education for all?

Choosing a school shouldn’t be like renewing home or car insurance. Schools are so much more than just numbers.

Gather together and publish parent and teacher feedback from surveys. Ask neighbouring school leaders to look at the quality of pastoral care or the breadth of subjects offered.

On high-stakes testing in primary schools:

It is high time we ended the unnecessary stress placed on pupils and teachers by high-stakes testing in primary schools. Which is why we should scrap SATs and reception baseline tests altogether.

With teachers constantly having to focus on these and other tests throughout a child’s life, important parts of the curriculum get pushed to the back of the queue. Rather than preparing students for life, we’re teaching students how to be tested.

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  • Graham Evans 16th Apr '19 - 8:30am

    The remit of Ofsted has grow enormously since its original creation. It is now an enormous monolith. We need some sort of external monitoring of education of young people, but the needs of students over 18, those roughly 16 to 18, those 11 to 16, those roughly 5 to 10, and those under 5, are linked but in many respects very different. Moreover funding for Ofsted has not increased in line with its increased responsibilities. Rather than continue to make ad hoc changes we need to st back

  • Graham Evans 16th Apr '19 - 8:37am

    Don’t know why I came to be posted before I had finished, so here’s my final thought:

    Rather than continue to make ad hoc changes we need to step back and rethink not only what inspection should involve but also the appropriate structures for implementation. Some sort of Royal Commission may be needed rather than simply pushing the views of individual politicians or indeed political party.

  • Graham Evans 16th Apr '19 - 8:44am

    @ Martin, whatever the shortcomings of our present examination system, employers do need some sort of simple way of assessing candidates’ abilities and aptitudes. Most SMEs do not have the resources to undertake extensive evaluation, and even large companies tend to concentrate internal assessment on graduate recruitment.

  • John Marriott 16th Apr '19 - 9:31am

    They scrapped ‘Payment by Results’ many, many years ago. What we have now is ‘Judgement by Results’. Ever since the 1970s, when politicians trusted the educational establishment to man manage the introduction of non selective education at 11plus and the ‘Secret Garden’ was established, where the baby was largely thrown out with the bath water, education in England at least, has suffered from the counter reaction leading from Jim Callaghan’s perfectly reasonable Ruskin College speech before it went native via Lord Baker’s National Curriculum, Core Curriculum, LMS and Grant Maintained Schools to Tony ‘Education, Education, Education’ Blair’s ‘bog standard’ comprehensives morphing, thanks to Tory (with Lib Dem input) mismanagement of the academies programme. In addition to publicly accountable LEAs we now have a bunch of privatised ones (aka Academy Chains), many of whom seem to exist purely to line the pockets of certain individuals, where students are treated as commodities to be sent off the production line with massively inflated exam grades to fuel the apparently insatiable appetite of universities for the money they bring with them.

    How do we get out of this mess? Like Graham Evans, I favour a Royal Commission, just as I do for an in-depth look at addiction in all its forms. I also wish that someone would dust down the Tomlinson Report from the noughties, which advocated parity between academic and vocational education and which the Blair Government, having commissioned it, kicked into the long grass.

  • Totally agree with this. The examination system is not working. There obsession with bogus statistics is harming the mental health of all in the system. We need to focus as a party on what education is for.

  • Peter Watson 16th Apr '19 - 11:31am

    “It is high time we ended the unnecessary stress placed on pupils and teachers by high-stakes testing in primary schools.”
    A call to scrap the 11+ (echoing a 2016 Conference motion) and a sign that the party is getting off the fence on grammar schools? Or am I reading too much into it?

  • 1. Scrap the National Curriculum.
    2. Bring back middle schools – or at least end enrollment into senior schools at 11.
    3. Scrap school selection (whether by parent or by test) – if you live here, you go to that school. Focus public resource on schools in lower income catchment areas. (There’s a strong environmental argument for this too.)
    4. Improve teachers’ welfare (time off for CPD, daily non-contact time) to retain teachers in the profession (along with increased autonomy from scrapping the national curriculum).

  • Richard Underhill 16th Apr '19 - 2:41pm

    Children should not be encouraged to make career choices before entering primary schools. Industries not yet created will provide opportunities.
    At school we wondered why we were being taught Latin (and some of the brightest Ancient Greek). We did not all aspire to be school teachers specialising in Latin.
    Ancient history included information about times and places when there were no police and no assumption of innocence.

  • Peter Watson 16th Apr '19 - 4:25pm

    @Stephen Howse “Too much focus on the needs of teachers, nowhere near enough on the needs of the most important people in the classroom – the pupils.”
    Though it feels like a necessary change in emphasis after years of teachers being dumped on by successive governments. Yesterday it was reported that nearly 20% of teachers want to quit within 2 years and 40% within 5 years. Without good, motivated teachers, any great ideas about school structures and educational reforms will amount to nothing.

  • The ‘second lead’ on the BBC flagship 6pm news was the scrapping of tests in primary schools…

    No mention of Layla Moran and LibDems; just Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

  • John Marriott 16th Apr '19 - 7:04pm

    @Guy Voizey
    Don’t ‘scrap’ the National Curriculum, just water it down to something like English, Maths and Science.

    Do NOT bring back Middle Schools. They just don’t work, especially if they cater for 11 to 14.

    As for teachers, as usual they have become the whipping boys (and girls) and are expected to take on new initiatives at the drop of a hat. The question used to be “What do you want me to give up what I am doing now in order to take on board what you are proposing?”

  • With a less test oriented system, teachers can do what is best for their individual pupils, whether that is gaining top marks in internal tests, learning soft skills such as communicating or becoming interested in vocational subjects such as caring, working outside in nature or developing artistic talents in music, the performing arts or creating objects of beauty.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '19 - 12:40am

    The Guardian reports that

    Researchers from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said that one in 12 pupils (8.1%) from the national cohort that began secondary school in 2012 and finished in 2017 were removed from rolls at some point, for reasons that could not be accounted for. Off-rolling is the practice whereby schools remove difficult or low-achieving pupils from their rolls so they are not included in their GCSE results, or in order to reduce costs.

    This is pretty shocking, and perhaps a consequence of the issues (“league tables, Ofsted and high-stakes testing”) discussed above.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '19 - 12:42am

    Ooops, HTML fail, sorry!

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