Thursday, 30 August 2007

Testing times

News that writing standards for seven year-olds have fallen for the second year running shows how important it is that the new phonics drive is introduced this coming term. But they also tell us something else that may be less palatable to David Laws, the Liberal Democrat spokesman who thinks the results should disappoint ministers. For at seven, the decision was taken to adopt Liberal Democrat (and teaching union) policy and abandon national testing , leaving the marking mostly to teachers. Of course one doesn't want to have a similar test environment for seven year-olds as for eleven year-olds; and the tests at KS1 were always treated differently. But there is now no incentive for schools to maximise achievement at seven: the results are kept secret and for value-added scores, a poorer result at seven can improve supposed value added by 11; and the 'expected level 2' is far too broad to be meaningful. As ministers introduce new progress measures enabling 11 and 14 year-olds to take tests as they are ready, an overhaul of Key Stage 1 tests should follow, so that we can both be confident in the results and know that they are being taken sufficiently seriously by schools as a means of ensuring that pupils achieve what they can.

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