Terminate SATs Next

For once the Government have bitten the bullet and terminated the contract of a supplier who has not delivered.  ETS Europe was contracted by the Government to deliver assessments of pupils taking their SATs but has failed to deliver with many papers unmarked and concerns about the quality and reliability of assessments that have been made.  According to the BBC the contract was worth £39.6 million in 208 and £156 million over five years.

Predictably the government is trying to hide behind QCA’s skirts in dodging responsibility for this debacle. “Nothing to do with me, Govn’r” seems to be the message from Ed Balls.

The main benefit of SATs seems to be to enable Government to boast about how much results improve year by year.  Yet the consensus seems to be that any improvements are largely the result of ‘teaching to the test’. 

The real question must now be, “Why bother with SATs at all?”.  After all their role is basically to enable government and others to asssess pupils’ progress which is a worthy aim – to a point.  But what point?  All information has a cost; the out-of-pocket expense of collecting it plus the hidden costs imposed on the system it’s collected from in terms of diversion of effort etc.  Yet in this case quality concerns are such that it’s doubtful if the information collected has any value whatsoever.  Taxpayers have every right to be aggrieved by the waste of money this represents.

A centralised approch to education simply doesn’t work and is horribly expensive.  Of course the really big cost is not the £39.6 million but the diversion of effort from the real job of teaching that happens in every classroom.  But don’t expect the government to publish an estimate of this any time soon.

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