OPINION: It’s a bad idea to bring back year 9 SATS after the seismic impact pandemic has had - Former headteacher Dennis Richards

No, before you ask, I haven’t seen it yet. ‘No Time To Die’ is showing across the country at all times of the day.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 9:26 am

I should find it encouraging. According to my maths, if the first James Bond was Sean Connery and he was born in 1930, then Britain’s finest secret agent is a very fit-looking 91.

Suspending belief has been an invaluable tactic during the pandemic, and on that evidence, it looks set to continue in the world at large.

Similarly with my namesake. Dennis the Menace celebrated his 70th birthday on March 17 this year with the news that his black and red stripy jumper “has become a genuine fashion icon”.

In 70 years, Dennis has only removed the garment twice, most recently in 2018 in a festive jumper in aid of Save the Children. Brilliant. Not growing old has a lot to recommend it.

Back at the chalkface, however, we can no longer suspend belief as to what the future might hold for our schools.

I should perhaps warn readers that teachers are not currently full of bonhomie and bursting with enthusiasm to get back to normal.

As in most forms of employment, there are feelings of exhaustion and wondering what the hell will hit us next.

Take the furore over vaccination for 12-15 year olds, for example.

I take the Jurgen Klopp view, the universally respected manager of Liverpool FC. “I don’t actually know, but I am in the fortunate position of knowing somebody who does, and whom I trust.”

Exactly. What would possess any one to stand outside a school with a placard at a time like this, when the poor old headteacher and the kids have gone through hell for the past 20 months?

But that will pass. They come and they go.

But the battle for the heart and soul of our schools is about to re-start with a vengeance.

Ministers are said to be considering bringing back national testing for 14 year olds at the end of Year 9.

We still have testing at seven, 11 and of course, 16 and 18.

My research tells me that the tests were abandoned in 2008, after “a series of enquiries concluded that the tests fuelled a pervasive anxiety in younger pupils’ lives and distorted their education.”

Apparently, Ministers are worried that the KS3 curriculum has “got a bit lost” without assessment at the end of it.

So let me get this right. We are now led to believe that, slowly but surely, we are emerging from the worst health crisis in a century.

With solid evidence, teachers know that the pandemic has had a seismic impact on children’s mental health.

Never has there been a better case for KS3 children to be offered a broader curriculum.

I could even be tempted to stand outside the DfE with a placard.

There are also plans to give OFSTED greater powers. Three days rather than two. No-notice of an inspection. That’s also a spectacularly bad idea.

Frankly if an individual in a suit with a clipboard turned up at the school announcing, “I’m an inspector”, he or she would have to wait outside the school gate for appropriate verification. Two distinctly mediocre ideas.

Reminds me of a story Michael Wild tells about his school reports. His history teacher had written: “This must surely be his worst subject.” On the next line the RE teacher had simply put, “Alas, no”.

Or since responding in French is in now in vogue. Donnez-moi un break, for example... how about “Va te faire cuire un oeuf”? Go boil an egg.