What the profession think of standardised tests in Wales – Part I

4 Nov

Last week I blogged on how there isn’t parental support for the Welsh Government’s standardised testing regime.  In that post I noted a survey of teachers that had been conducted and that I would be covering the responses in more detail.

The first thing to note is some of the headline figures that show exactly how unpopular this policy is.

  • 96.35% do not think the tests have been a positive experience for pupils. (+3.11%)
  • 70.81% do not believe the tests are consistent with the curriculum. (+7.06%)
  • 82.82% say workload is up as a result of the tests. (+4.29%)
  • 87.36% say tests have impacted negatively on pupil stress levels. (+5.29%)

As you can see these are staggeringly depressing figures that really demonstrate how disillusioned the sector is with the policy.  Looking at these figures it is very hard to see how the initiative can be a success given the strength of feeling in opposition to it.  The Welsh Government never sold teachers on the need for this style of testing; the implementation has been very poor and the concerns that have been raise, for the most part, have not been given adequate attention.  The figures in brackets denote a change in views since the same survey was conducted in 2013.  Across all these crucial indicators it is clear to see that not only has the scepticism of teachers not been won over it has increased.

It is also interesting to look at the issue of parental support in light of the responses on that to the survey.  Asked about feedback from parents teachers stated that:

  • It was wholly or mostly negative 29.46% (+12.51%)
  • It was wholly or mostly positive 0.85% (-0.84%)
  • Mixed 20.96% (+5.99%),
  • There was no feedback 48.73% (-17.65%)

Again the figures in brackets show the change from the 2013 survey.  It is very odd then that the Welsh Government have claimed they are seeing positive support from parents in relation to these tests when at the same time teachers are reporting that more and more parents are responding negatively.  In fact there was less than 1% positive feedback.  Of course it could very well be that parents, instead of telling the teachers they know and have relationships with, they are opting to tell the Welsh Government directly.  That seems a little bit of a stretch, especially when we know they have not done so through any emails or letters.

Ultimately the Welsh Government will stand by these tests as they claim that they will support standards.  But is that a view shared by the experts that work in classrooms day in day out?

  • 87.57% do not believe that the tests will lead to improved pupil attainment (-1.98%)
  • 90.14% do not believe the tests have provided new information about pupils (-1.99%)

As you can see there is little belief that these test either offer any new information about pupils or will lead to better standards.  Admittedly, there is a slight drop in the pessimism here from last year.  However with both indicators above the 87% mark it is hardly a cause for celebration.  Clearly not only have the tests proved incredibly unpopular they have little chance, if present views are to be believed, of convincing the profession of success in future.

The final point of interest from the data concerns the funding for the tests.  One of the issues that teachers have raised is that they have found the tests, the preparation and the delivery, are costing money for schools.  In a new question asked this year we surveyed if the profession believed the Welsh Government had attached the right levels of funding to this policy.  87% did not believe this was the case.

I accept one of the criticisms of the survey in that it is a small sample.  360 teachers took part.  I would argue that a standard opinion poll size would be around 1,000 individuals to give a reflection of the views of millions of voters.  In that regards 360 reflecting a few ten thousand teachers is somewhat comparable.  Still, it is a valid point.  What I would also argue is that this is not the first poll on this issue.  This is a repeat of the survey conducted last year which had a similar number of responses.  It is also true that other groups have conducted surveys which have similar responses.  There is then a bank of evidence being collated.  Also the percentage of responses is noticeable.  When you are talking about 80-90% views the strength of feeling is clear.  This may be a relatively small sample but it is none the less an important snapshot of where we are at with this policy.

These are all the findings of the quantitative data from the survey.  In stark black and white it is fair to say the picture is bleak.  I will be posting later in the week details of the qualitative feedback which, I’m afraid to say, makes for even more depressing, and at times upsetting, reading.

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