Pictured: Katharine Birbalsingh
Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn once said that he & # 39; a nicer, softer & # 39; wanted to introduce politics to Britain. Now he wants to make our schools compassionate, whether or not it makes them less demanding.
The centerpiece of his soft approach is the abolition of standard assessment tests (SATs), introduced in the 1990s following complaints that the earlier system of individual teacher assessment undermined national standards and led to gross inconsistencies.
But Mr. Corbyn, who made his announcement yesterday at the National Education Union conference, claims that SAT & # 39; s are unjust and cruel.
A lifelong radical, he sees discipline in schools as a form of oppression and rigorous evaluation of students as a barrier to creativity. In his speech to union delegates, he promised that Labor & # 39; s new form of assessment & # 39; would embrace the learning needs of every child because each child is unique & # 39 ;.
But this is just wishful thinking. I know the value of testing when measuring quality and increasing performance levels. If Mr Corbyn's policy were to be put into practice, it would seriously damage the chances of life of huge numbers of primary school children, especially those with a disadvantaged background.
Preaching to the converted: Corbyn at the education union conference yesterday
Mrs. Birbalsingh is the founder and head of the Michaela Community School
Because the truth is that SATs, far from serving as an instrument of victimization, are actually a means for opportunities, progress and improvement in schools. Indeed, any argument that Mr Corbyn makes against SAT & # 39; s is incorrect.
He says they are unfair, but the opposite is true, because they are established by an independent organization that creates a level playing field for all students, regardless of race or privilege. SAT & # 39; s do not see color or class, but only the test performance.
But with the assessment of teachers, the position was very different. Individual teachers could not help but brought their own expectations of the child to the trial, as was clearly demonstrated in a study conducted in the 1990s by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which revealed how such assessments were riddled with bias.
Mr Corbyn regularly emphasizes his commitment to equality and diversity, but ironically the biggest losers are his abolition of SAT & pupils with special educational needs and those of peoples or ethnic minority households.
The truth is that SATs, far from serving as an instrument of victimization, are actually a means for opportunities, progress and improvement in schools.
With equal irony, the biggest winners are students in private schools, where the culture of regular testing will continue. In fact, this sector is partially flourishing, precisely because his students are so used to being stretched. We must continue to match that in public schools.
Misery is not fueled in state primaries by the SAT regime. On the contrary, students are emotionally fulfilled when they reach difficult goals. A deep sense of personal satisfaction and relief comes from scaling the mountain challenge, while flat landscapes produce bored complacency.
Similarly, Mr. Corbyn said that his alternative & # 39; will prepare children for life, not just for exams & # 39 ;. But in reality that is what SAT & # 39; s do. The careers of most adults are full of tests and challenges. Removing tests is not a preparation for life at all.
What Mr. Corbyn does not acknowledge is why SAT & # 39; s were needed in the first place.
For decades before their introduction, the British education system suffered poor student disappointment, partly because there were no universal standards and little real accountability in schools.
Taxpayers deserve a system that ensures that standards are enforced throughout the country. And parents deserve to know what the standards are at the school that their child attends.
I do not deny that there are problems with SAT & # 39; s. There is, as Mr Corbyn says, too much & # 39; teaching on the trial & # 39 ;, where students can get an old paper diet in preparation for their own exams. And it is true that the requirements of SAT & # 39; s, with an emphasis on English and mathematics, can encourage teachers to spend less time on other topics. But the answer is not the abolition.
The real solution is to adopt a spirit of flexibility and innovation. Blind removal of SAT & # 39; s from primary schools is just a recipe for despair and decline.