Reports about the likely recommendations of the expert group on testing have focused on the plans to replace the Key Stage 2 science tests with assessment. Since this blog recommended this as a way forward - and it has been welcomed by the science teachers' association - this is a sensible way of reducing the amount of testing whilst focusing on the basics.
Of course, it is the primary responsibility of primary schools to ensure that children know how to read, write and add up properly by the age of eleven. And the state has a duty to parents and taxpayers to make sure that they are doing so. Of course, there may be different ways of doing this - and the expert group seems wisely to be urging more piloting of the so-called progress tests that pupils would take as they are ready - but such tests must be externally set and marked. And they should be taken at least once by every pupil in every primary school.
Of course, the NAHT and NUT don't like this. But the NAHT general secretary - fresh from trumpeting his dodgy 'poll of parents' - told Today this morning that the scrapping of science 'narrows the curriculum too much'. So, he is no longer concerned to reduce the 'burden of testing'? Logically, then children should be tested in every subject, not none, as Mr Brookes admits that the presence of tests concentrates teachers' minds on getting children to pass them.
In truth, the revision that pupils do for tests in English and Maths can and should be a time to ensure that they have learnt how to read and write, and that they know their grammar, spelling, punctuation and mathematical rules. How does Mr Brookes imagine these children will get on in secondary school if they can't?If there is too much pressure on pupils, that is the fault of schools and parents, and not the tests.
But there is one respect where the expert group and those teachers' leaders who oppose a boycott may be being disingenuous, if advance reports are right: with respect to the publication of results. As a general principle in a society where freedom of information is the norm, it would be intolerable not to publish the test results. So, the results would appear in school report cards. Fine.
But there is a suggestion that the government might stop publishing the results on the same day, to avoid newspapers compiling league tables. We did, in fact, leave publication to individual local authorities in 1998 precisely for this reason, and apart from inconveniencing the education correspondents, it made no difference. The Press Association had to work a bit harder. There was less celebration of good and improving schools. So we returned to national publication.
With report cards, the newspapers will still publish the results. Surely, the DCSF must continue to make it easy for parents and others to search for any school's results on its website?
Of course, the real reason why these unions don't want the tests is not that they really think they 'damage' children. It is that they don't like the scrutiny that their publication brings. But such scrutiny has spurred so many of them to improve in recent years. The tests should stay; and their results should remain easily accessible to all.