Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Testing times

. This week more than a million pupils will sit national curriculum key stage tests. Meanwhile, the Commons schools select committee is set to publish a report calling for the reform of the testing system. It seems to me to be common sense that you cannot treat education like you would competitive sport - setting up league tables and letting the schools scrap it out.

The governments argument that the tests are essential to measure pupils progress is invalidated by the very existence of league tables which introduce the competitive element. Any sensible testing regime should start from the need to balance assessment with the educational. A regime of constant testing may motivate some but it is far more likely to demotivate the vast majority and of course they create intense pressure to perform. It would be wrong to draw a direct link but in a climate where we are seeing an alarming rise in self-harm statistics how can this level of pressure be justified??

Furthermore, with the added pressure to get results there is the obvious disadvantage that teachers are forced to 'teach to test' not 'teach to learn'. Frank Bunting, a year 6 teacher, told Panorama:

"Once we get to February, I've got my Sats blinkers on. Everything for me
revolves around Sats and I do actually find it quite pressured because I know
that the school is under pressure to achieve results."

Continuous testing benefits neither student nor school , a radical reform of the testing regime is needed and urgently.

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