Jeremy Corbyn said he will scrap the “regime of extreme pressure testing” in primary schools by abolishing SATs.
The Labour leader said the new policy would relieve pressure on a schools system forced to cope with overcrowded classrooms, and an ongoing crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.
Speaking at the National Education Union’s Conference in Liverpool, Mr Corbyn said: “We need to prepare children for life, not just for exams.
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Rosa Gatta and daughter Millie Sordillo has a picture taken with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after he spoke to party members in the Red Lion, Winsford while on the local election campaign trail. (PA)
“Sats and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears.
“I meet teachers of all ages and backgrounds who are totally overworked and overstressed. These are dedicated public servants. It’s just wrong.”
Mr Corbyn also announced that the next Labour government will scrap baseline assessments for reception classes.
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He said Labour would consult parents and teachers on an alternative that “prepares children for life, not just for exams”.
The conference heard: “Our assessment will be based on clear principles. First, to understand the learning needs of each child, because every child is unique.
“And second, to encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education.
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Minister for Schools Nick Gibb. (PA Archive/PA Images)
“When children have a rich and varied curriculum, when they’re encouraged to be creative, to develop their imagination, then there’s evidence that they do better at the core elements of literacy and numeracy too.”
Mr Corbyn said his party trusts teachers and will raise standards by freeing them up to teach.
He added: “Teachers get into the profession because they want to inspire children, not pass them along an assembly line.”
But, Schools Minister Nick Gibb has said SATs tests have been “absolutely pivotal” in raising education standards since they were introduced three decades ago.
Exam with school student having a educational test, thinking hard, writing answer in classroom for university education admission and world literacy day concept
“They have been pivotal in raising standards in reading, maths and writing over those 30 years,” he told Channel 4 News.
“It is a hugely retrograde step by Jeremy Corbyn to propose abolishing those SATs.
“Parents will be in the dark about how well schools are performing… Ofsted won’t have reliable data on how to judge schools and parents rely on this data and performance tables to determine where they should be sending their child to school.”
The Labour leader made the speech after spending the day lending his support to the local election campaign in the North West.
He was greeted by cheers of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” as he made his way into the arena, and the announcement received a rapturous standing ovation.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Jeremy Corbyn gets it – he recognises the damage that a test-driven system is doing to children and schools; he understands what needs to change; he sets out ideas for education which will make sense to parents and teachers.
“The NEU has long advocated an assessment system that has the trust of teachers and school communities – one that will support children’s learning and raise standards of attainment in our schools.
“We look forward to the return of a broad and balanced primary curriculum and to the rekindling of the spirit of creativity in our schools. We welcome Labour’s commitment to work with the profession in order to develop these ground-breaking policies further.”
© PA Wire/PA Images Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to Carlisle. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
The announcement comes less than a month before thousands of children are expected to sit their SATs.
It follows the NEU conference voting on Monday in favour of balloting members over a boycott of next year’s exams.
More Than A Score welcomed the announcement, saying: “We’ve now reached a tipping point as parents, teachers, heads, education experts and politicians agree: the current testing regime makes no sense and is damaging for pupils, teachers and schools.
“Parents of children preparing for year 6 SATs in just a few weeks’ time will have seen the effects for themselves: a narrowed curriculum and unnecessary pressure on pupils and teachers.
“Meanwhile, parents of pre-schoolers are now facing the prospect of four-year-olds being tested in English and maths when they start school from next year.”