Fabian Education Policy Group Fail the Test


The blog by the Fabian Education Policy Group, Put To The Test, fails these tests as to whether it has anything useful to add to the assessment debate. 

Does it recognise the ideological (rather than culture) war, in which anything that deviates from the Tories’ curriculum and assessment objectives is dismissed?  

No it pays no heed nor even mentions the cosy group of DFE politicians, academy CEOs, OFSTED, and a couple of right wing academics who currently control the system. An ex-academy chief has just been appointed to oversee OFQUAL for example. Rather it seeks to mollify the opposition and seeks to ’allay the fears of those who intellectually or emotionally bound to the tradition of the summer exam season’.  

Does it set out any principles on which assessment reform should be based?  

No. It fails to even oppose norm referencing whereby 35% of pupils who mainly disadvantaged are labelled as failures at GCSE and incidentally in other tests such as KS2 tests. Many mainstream groups and politicians (e.g. Rethink Assessment, Kenneth Baker) want a criterion-based system, yet the blog cannot even bring itself to address this. 

Does it recognise that currently external assessments are used by the DFE to force schools to adopt particular curricular and pedological approaches, particularly at primary level? 

No. Its fails to link the phonics test, the tables test and SATS in primary schools to the Tories ideological agenda. Their just published reading framework will force 5 year olds to spend an hour a day on formal phonics sessions. The whole of year 6 will be spent cramming for KS2 SATS again. In spite of the disruption caused by the pandemics the DFE is insisting its base line assessment of reception children will go ahead in September. Yet the article says nothing about campaigns such as ‘More Than a Score’ which seek to abolish SATS and reform primary assessment. 

Does it comment on the role exam results play in the league tables and accountability system designed to control schools and force more into academisation? 

No. One reason why Gibb and co are so reluctant to see GCSEs go is that their demise would lead also to the demise of progress 8 and attainment 8 which are the basis of league tables. These measures are based on norm referenced exams which means that schools can only gain at the expense of others in the system. Also these measure are based on averages so that there will always be schools scoring below average which could cause them to ‘inadequate’ and in turn forced into MATS. 

Does it say anything at all about assessment, exams, qualifications etc?  

No. It proposes a citizens’ assembly on the topic rather defeating the object of the Fabian Education Policy Group. Surely socialist educators and stakeholders in groups such as the Socialist Educational Association and the Fabians should be taking the lead in policy development? 

This blog fails the test. We in the SEA have already put forward policy ideas on the 14 to 19 curriculum which can be read here. https://socialisteducationalassociation.org/2019/08/23/towards-a-comprehensive-14-19-curriculum-not-tory-t-levels/ 

 We are also in the process of working up ideas on curriculum and assessment.  

James Whiting (General Secretary SEA) 

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