(Courtesy of The Telegraph)
Some teachers also told how they intentionally made low assessments of infants’ abilities at the start of school so it would appear they were “making more progress” in later years.
The findings will raise serious doubts over the system of teacher assessment used in thousands of state schools – when staff makes informal judgments of pupil standards based on performance in the classroom over a length of time.
Assessment results are already sent to parents and used by Ofsted, the education watchdog, and local authorities to gauge how well schools are performing.
In recent years, the Government has also dropped the number of formal Sats tests taken by pupils in English state schools in favor of teacher assessment scores. Labor axed exams at 14 altogether along with a science test taken by 11-year-olds.
But three separate studies presented to the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference today suggest schools are manipulating results.
Prof Martin Fautley, from Birmingham City University’s School of Education, which carried out one of the studies, said: “Assessment is being used for an entirely different purpose from that for which it was originally intended.
“Management are telling teachers that pupils should be achieving at a certain level, and some teachers are then feeling forced into saying that they have achieved it, whether or not this is appropriate.”
The Birmingham City study investigated judgments made by music teachers of pupils aged 11 to 14. Some 57 staff was asked whether they used their own discretion to assign marks or came under pressure from management to show pupils were making progress.
More than a third of teachers chose the latter. One said: “We were told to increase [marks]. This is directed by the head teacher, but nothing is ever in writing.”
Another said: “I thought I was free to use my professional discretion but… was told to change the levels to meet the percentage target.”
A second study by Birendra Singh, of London University’s Institute of Education, found evidence of two schools – one rated good and other outstanding by Ofsted – simply making up teacher assessment scores for pupils studying science in the first three years of secondary education.
One teacher said: “The department will report that the targets have been met.
“In order to be able to do this the department has discounted the questions which the pupils failed to do and adjusted the marks accordingly. In other words, made the marks up in line with what was expected.”
The third study, by Dr Alice Bradbury of Roehampton University, found evidence of reception year teachers adjusting the marks they give to five-year-olds, which are normally used as a baseline against which to compare pupils’ progress, as they get older.
But the study – based on two inner-London schools – revealed that some pupils’ scores were deliberately depressed.
This meant that a “lower baseline was set so it would appear in later years that the children were making more progress”, it was claimed.
Dr Bradbury said individual teachers should not be blamed for following a flawed national system.
“It is a system where everyone is just producing these numbers to keep everyone else happy, but there is a real effect on the individual children involved,” she said.
But a spokesman for the Department for Education said: “These are tiny surveys of a few dozen teachers – so it is difficult to making sweeping generalizations about the state of teaching.
“We trust schools to exercise their professional judgment and common sense in assessing 11- to 14-year-olds’ progress.
“Parents rightly expect schools to give them accurate information about their children’s work.”