Ministers have ‘run roughshod’ over teachers on Sats, and have a ‘sinister’ approach to school leaders; private head claims

Ministers have “run roughshod” over the wisdom and experience of teachers on Sats, a leading independent school head claimed today.

Sarah Welch, chair of the Independent Schools Association, also said that the government’s approach to academisation was “sinister” and fails to support schools and heads.

She told her organisation’s annual conference: “Successful independence in education is only possible when the professionalism of leaders and of teachers is acknowledged and trusted. What happens when it isn’t?

“The recent Sats debâcle is a case in point: heads, teachers and parents all frustrated that decisions are being made by people who not only lack a proper understanding of education but also fail to respect those over whose qualifications, experience and wisdom they run roughshod.”

Her comments come in a week that teachers and school leaders have complained loudly about the contents of the new “tougher” Sats tests, saying they are too hard for many learners, calling the reading test “incredibly difficult”.

Sats week became even more controversial this year after two high-profile leaks of test papers, which led to the key stage 1 Spag test being cancelled.

Dr Welch went on to criticise Nicky Morgan’s promise in the recent education white paper that school autonomy would be “both earned and lost, with our most successful leaders extending their influence, and weaker ones doing the opposite”. This, she said, amounted to a “threat”.

Dr Welch added: “They have been forced to make another U turn and will no longer be forcing all state schools to become academies over the next six years.

“However, they remain determined that converting all schools to academies is the ideal, and that the way forward for the maintained sector is multi-academy trusts, which are required to have neither governing bodies for individual schools nor any parent governors. In fact, no local accountability at all.”

She described the government’s plan to reduce the influence of weaker school leaders as “sinister, suggesting an uncompromising lack of support for those leaders—and by extension, their schools and their pupils—who may need it most.”

Responding to Dr Welch’s criticism over Sats, a Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We value teachers’ feedback on tests and work with them in the development process, through expert review and trialling of potential questions.”

On the academies programme, she added: “We want to work constructively with the sector, supporting the school-led system to better develop and train the next generation of strong leaders.”

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