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Testing, testing, 123

19th January 2021

Testing seems to be dominating the education agenda (again!) this week. Albeit, on this occasion, there seems to be extra layers of testing. Academic tests and Covid testing seem to be arriving in waves of confusion amongst our schools at the moment.

When testing a microphone, the common test system seems to be saying testing, testing, testing, or even 1,2,3, into it at a slower and slightly lower volume than usual. This feels like our world currently.

testing testing testingFirst, academic tests. All schools recognise that testing or exams are going to be different this year. We acknowledge that assessment is an integral and necessary part of education. This year we know that SATs, EYFS assessment, GCSEs and A-levels are not taking place as we might expect in a non-Covid year. While our primary partners have a little (and I mean a little) more certainty regarding testing secondary colleagues and students remain in a fog of uncertainty. Consultations are out, and quite clearly the message from a week ago of ‘exams cancelled’ does not mean exams are cancelled. It means tests are going to be different. What this means for our children and teachers as they try to navigate the path between maintaining momentum and purpose alongside calming nerves and anxiety is unclear. All we can do is keep learning as our focus. Children have content and learning principles to grasp. They are still to discover ways of making sense of their world, themselves and others – we must continue to do this. We will. There remains a power and energy behind learning and vibrant curriculum. If at all possible we must use this as our true north … and everything else along our crooked path with fall into place.

Primary (home) testing is landing in our schools this week. Despite all the complications this is a good think. Acknowledging the extra work and extra exposure (if not additional risk) and seeking to mitigate this is promising. How the tests are administered and what this means for our primary colleagues will become clear in the coming weeks. We will continue to share best practice and support schools in their delivery and utilisation.

Secondary Covid testing remains in limbo. Dictate issued during the Christmas holidays for implementation with an army of volunteers and logistical concerns was challenging. Our schools stepped up – achieved the impossible and we are incredibly proud of their efforts. Goal posts moved once and then further during the first week – and now we face conflicting advice as to whether to utilise LFTs for serial testing or otherwise. Currently we remain prudent and await further clarification.

Testing, testing, testing. Always integral to learning – but often both overplayed and misunderstood. We just hope someone is listening.

Jack Mayhew, Executive Headteacher  Athena Schools Trust

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