Welsh education shake-up must not lead to lower standards, says David Davies.
Speech to the National Assembly for Wales
"Had I been asked about this a year ago, I would have been in favour of continuing with some form of SATs testing.
What has happened over the last year has not been so much a Damascene conversion as the fact that I have had the opportunity, through the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee, to meet large numbers of teachers and teaching union representatives.
In that time, I do not think that a single teacher or union representative has been prepared to say a good word about SATs. It would be foolish of me, or of any other Member, to ignore such a consistent message from so many different professionals.
I hope that other Members agree that we should not only listen to what people say, but take it on board.
Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that, even if SATs were as good as they should be, if they do not have teachers' confidence, there is not much point in continuing with them.
However, it is vital that we have some form of test to ensure that schools perform properly. If a school is not performing properly, those that suffer most are the pupils, and they will suffer for the rest of their lives.
Therefore, it is vital that testing is in place. That is why I was interested in what Janet Ryder said—she is shaking her head at me now—about having external moderators. That would ensure that, if we do not have SATs, we have some form of testing, or at least that assessment is consistent across Wales.
You say in your statement, Minister, that the detail must be worked out; we should look carefully at that detail.
I find it slightly puzzling that you say that, while you are phasing out the SATs test, you will allow schools to continue to take them and that you will offer to mark them. This would, presumably, be done on a voluntary basis.
The idea of the SATs test was that it allowed you to compare one school with another. If only some schools are continuing with some of the tests, that takes away the whole raison d'être for the tests.
I will not go as far as to say that I broadly welcome this, but I broadly accept it, on the basis that the detail is worked out and that we can be absolutely certain that, when you come up with the final proposals, we have a system that allows us to see clearly across the whole of Wales whether a school is doing well or doing badly so that we can give it the help that it needs."