Thursday, 12 February 2009

Keep primary school tests

I have a piece in today's Independent arguing in favour of keeping externally set primary school tests. You can read it here. Here's an extract:

Some teachers' leaders regard the abolition of Key Stage 3 as a stepping stone to the abolition of the primary school tests. But the abolition of externally marked* Key Stage 1 tests for seven-year-olds in 2005 has already seen results dip, as the limited pressure on schools that went with those tests has eased. The scrapping of the more important Key Stage 2 tests could lead to a bigger decline.

Moreover, accountability has contributed to real improvements. The proportion of 11-year-olds reaching the expected standard at Key Stage 2 has risen from 49 per cent in English and 45 per cent in maths in 1995 to 81 and 78 per cent last year. That improvement – which has been even faster in many inner-city schools as a result of minimum standards through floor targets – has coincided with national tests, Ofsted inspections and the publication of school-level results.

Just as important, their publication has given teachers invaluable data that they can use to ensure that they are getting the most out of their pupils. So it is good that the Government has said that it remains committed to externally set and marked tests at Key Stage 2. Indeed, they are likely to be a key part of the new report card......

Whatever happens, the problems with the 2008 tests – and any consequent difficulties with the 2009 tests – cannot be the excuse for their complete demise. By all means change the tests and reduce the marking burden, but let's not abandon accountability.

*QCA press office point out that before this change, teachers marked the tests but did so based on an external marking scheme, whereas now they can use their own judgements about which level a pupil is at. However, the point remains that they are now based much more on internal rather than arguably more objective external judgments.

No comments: