Until yesterday, Ed Balls had commendably resisted attempts by the teaching unions to scrap accountability, by refusing to abolish testing and league tables. Yesterday, he announced pefectly reasonably that teacher assessment results would be published in league tables alongside test scores. What was unreasonable was his suggestion that Key Stage 2 tests could go, in a shameful attempt to curry favour with the teaching unions.
Primary schools face one set of external tests. They are vital for parental confidence, Ofsted inspections and public accountability. Doubtless many of the assessments will match the test scores, which is as it should be. But if the system becomes entirely self-policing, the dynamics would change considerably. There would be no real pressure to achieve in the basics, and this will particularly hurt boys' achievement in English. It will also hurt standards in primary education, where accountability has been important in the improvements over recent years.
I have been critical of Michael Gove's proposals to shift the tests to the start of secondary school, partly because it too was an attempt to appease the unions, but also because it would delegitimise the results as secondary teachers have an interest in marking down pupils at the start of secondary (Gove has since suggested that he would probably go for external marking). Both Balls and Gove should make clear their unequivocal support for externally set and marked national tests, and stop putting the interests of the teaching unions ahead of children's futures and school standards.
This post was quoted in the TES.