The British Department for Education (DFE) has come under fire from teachers unions this week after it had been discovered that they had published a key stage 1 spelling test on its website, in January. Officials realized the error after they found that first of the district’s students to take the test were already acquainted with the material.
Officials say that the test had been uploaded to the Standards and Testing Agency website as part of a series of test sample materials made available to schools (and their students).
Part of the nation’s Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar (SPAG) initiative, the test is an important benchmark for students. As such, the error is not being taken lightly.
Russell Hobby, who is the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “This is a serious error that has compromised the integrity of the spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) tests for key stage 1 [KS1] children this year.”
He adds, “As things stand, these tests can have little value because there’s no way to know how many children will have already used the test for practice.”
In his letter, Hobby pleads to government officials: “This most recent mistake follows a series of delays, miscommunications and reversals across the whole testing regime, which have created confusion, anger and indeed despair among professionals trying to stay focused on the needs of children.”
Of course, the error points out a much larger and more serious problem. Hobby continues: “The government’s testing reforms have over-reached and under-delivered, to the detriment of pupils. I would ask you to please reconsider the current approach and work with us to develop a stable, coherent approach to assessment.”
And he goes on to note that these schools will likely now have very little faith in any situation involving standardized exercises emergent of pre-test trials. He implores: “I therefore ask that you free schools from the obligation to use this test. My members will certainly expect this step.”
Sadly, he adds that teachers have completely lost confidence in the ability of this department to oversee and to manage assessment tests with a reasonable level of standards. He asks “How many more mistakes will the DfE make before they realise these assessments are not yet fit for purpose and their implementation is chaotic?
Finally, he warrants that now is the time to shed these old reforms and develop a new method “with the profession to design an assessment system that we all can have confidence and pride in.”