Ofsted admit there is ‘too great a focus on preparing for key stage two tests’

Following research into school curriculums, Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman has suggested that schools are serving SATs rather than the tests underpinning the curriculum as they should do.
She admitted that ‘any test can only ever sample the knowledge that has been gained’. Although she described exams as ‘our best measure of what has been successfully transmitted to pupil’s cognition’, they may not be giving the best picture of the standard of teaching and learning within a school environment.
Spielman added, ‘without a curriculum, a building full of teachers, leaders and pupils is not a school. Without receiving knowledge, pupils have learned nothing and no progress has been made, whatever the measures might indicate’.
However, recent research proved that ‘in some cases, testing has come inadvertently to mean the curriculum in its entirety’.
The Ofsted lead commissioned the research to understand ‘whether Ofsted has always recognised what is best in curriculum design, development and implementation’.
Yet Spielman was honest in her conclusion that ‘inspections may well have unintentionally contributed to the shift by reinforcing the measures. Measures only ever provide a partial picture and inspection should complement, not duplicate, that picture’.
The findings reflect the feelings of many school teachers and leaders across the country. As pointed out by Amanda Spielman, Ofsted inspections and government policy have placed the focus firmly on ensuring good SATs scores rather than taking into consideration the overall knowledge intake and the rounded ability of each individual child.
One Headteacher in South Lincolnshire explained ‘we should be preparing children with skills for life. How much do any of us remember after trying to take on board information for the purpose of a test?’
Spielman’s report set aside a section titled ‘next steps’. However, there seems to be very little in the way of an action plan for the future with the Ofsted Chief Inspector merely stating, ‘the substance of the curriculum is a matter for government policy’.