Thursday 4 September 2008

The case for testing

I have a column in this morning's Independent, making the case for keeping the national tests:

Tests allow parents to compare schools on an objective basis. They could accept what schools say is happening: but without external validation, does anyone imagine that there won't be pressures on some schools in a competitive admissions system to exaggerate a little? More recently, tests have also been a great source of data for schools. Their data are used by most teachers to help set ambitious pupil goals, a key to school improvement. There is a difference between recognising the need for external accountability and believing that the system we have at present is the right one to achieve it.

There is a case for some reform; after 13 years, it would be surprising if it were otherwise. With tests at seven now marked by teachers, the only national tests before GCSEs are at 11 and 14, hardly a sign of over-testing. But confining the external tests to maths and English, leaving science to be marked internally, would help with shortages of markers and reduce time spent on external tests, while ensuring accountability in the basics.

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