Heads oppose new punctuation and spelling test

School test The tests were called 'a waste of taxpayers' money'

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Head teachers say they will disrupt a new spelling, grammar and punctuation test to be introduced in England's primary schools next summer.

The SPAG test will be sat by pupils at the end of primary school as part of their national curriculum tests (SATs).

But the National Association of Head Teachers said the new tests were "a waste of taxpayers' money".

Ministers said too little attention had been paid to spelling, punctuation and grammar in recent years.

But the association has voted to explore ways of ensuring "this flawed test does not take place".

Introducing a motion to disrupt the "technical English" tests, Milton Keynes head teacher Tony Draper said teachers should be left to assess pupils in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Mr Draper said the new test from 2013 would cost millions of pounds to administer - money that would be better spent on teacher training and learning.

Start Quote

It will lead to further narrowing of the curriculum, teaching to the tests”

End Quote Tony Draper Head teacher

"It will lead to further narrowing of the curriculum, teaching to the tests and increased misery for our year six students and their families already sick of a diet of practice SATs and drills.

"Trust us to assess all our children's writing this year and every year or we will not cooperate with any future tests."

The conference voted almost unanimously (98.8%) to find ways of stopping the test going ahead.

The vote came as NAHT general secretary, Russell Hobby, said the association could boycott a controversial new reading test for six-year-olds in England if it was used as "a stick to beat schools".

New regime

Mr Hobby said the initiative should only be used as a genuine test to assess pupils, rather than to measure schools.

Two years ago the NAHT boycotted Year 6 SATs and following this the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, set up a review of the tests headed by Lord Bew.

As a result, this year's tests - which will be sat by 11-year-olds in England next week - will be the first under a new regime.

The writing test - the one most criticised by heads and teachers as an inaccurate assessment of what their pupils can achieve - will, for the first time, be assessed by teachers on the pupils' work during the year rather than an end-of-year test externally marked.

But the NAHT is angry that the government has got rid of one externally-marked test and effectively replaced with another in the SPAG test.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "Too little attention has been given to spelling, punctuation and grammar over the last decade.

"That's why we have accepted Lord Bew's recommendation to assess spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary as part of the writing test at Key Stage 2."

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