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Sean Harford recently criticised schools that force pupils to repeatedly practice comprehension exercises for KS2 tests and repeats concerns that some ‘outstanding’ primaries are ‘gaming’ the system with an excessive focus on the 3Rs

Ofsted’s national director of education has criticised primary schools that insist on “beasting” pupils in English and Maths in order to prepare them for Sats tests.

Sean Harford was speaking at a fringe meeting at the NASUWT teaching union’s annual conference in Birmingham today.

He talked about the importance of maintaining a broad and balanced curriculum, and said inspectors were being asked to challenge schools that were failing to provide one.

The fact that only English and maths were tested at the end of KS2 meant some schools were focusing too much on those subjects, at the expense of others, he said.

He told attendees: “Beasting children in english and maths, and just keep[ing] on doing it, is probably detrimental. I cry – literally cry – when I go into schools…and they just keep on being given comprehension exercises, because they know that the reading test has comprehension it it.

“Comprehension is clearly understanding of what you read. You don’t get better at it by doing comprehension exercises. You get better at understanding stuff you read that’s unfamiliar by reading loads of other stuff – in history.

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