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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 10:24 GMT


Test rebel school backs down

One primary school still refuses to co-operate with league tables

A junior school that has refused to put its pupils in for compulsory national tests says it will now carry out the tests this year, after pressure from the local authority.

Rosslyn Junior School in Nottingham was the only school in England not to enter its 11-year-olds pupils for the standard assessment tests (SATs) last summer - the results of which were published on Tuesday.

The school had argued that the league tables were an unfair method of comparing the achievements of primary schools, particularly the way they appear to label schools in deprived areas as failures.

As such the school has so far not participated in any of the school tests since 1994, the only school to continue what was once planned as a national boycott of primary school tests.

Another school, St Laurence's in Cambridge, has set the tests but has refused to submit the papers for marking. This remains the only primary out of 14,600 which is not co-operating with the league table system.

[ image: Primary school tests have divided opinion since their introduction in 1994]
Primary school tests have divided opinion since their introduction in 1994
At their regular meeting on Wednesday night the governors at Rosslyn Junior School concluded that as the refusal to set tests was in breach of the law they had no other option but to comply, and about 100 pupils will sit the tests this year on 26 May.

"We still have some concerns about their relevance," said chair of the governors, Gill Bainbridge.

The school serves three relatively deprived housing estates and believes its own method of assessing the value it adds to a child's learning is more valid - and it will still be using that.

"I feel it was inevitable," Gill Bainbridge said, having been "read chapter and verse" by the local authority's director of education, Paul Roberts.

"Maybe a small consolation is that I'm also a governor at our neighbouring comprehensive and I am aware of problems it has posed them, not having similar information about pupils from all of their feed-in primary schools."

She is confident that those taking the tests should be reasonably competent in the science and maths test, but English is the worry.

"Literacy has been a major issue in our area for some time now. We welcome the government initiatives on that and we are using the literacy hour," she said.

'Parents intimidated'

The problem does not seem to be one of parental indifference - the school gets more than 80% attendance at parent's evenings.

"Because of the areas we serve our parents are often willing to support the school but are often intimidated by school," Mrs Bainbridge said. "It's challenging for parents when the youngsters' capabilities are starting to exceed their own."

One project to try to overcome the problem involves a contract with parents to read with their children for at least 20 minutes, six days a week.

Another idea the school will be trying involves pupils having pen-pal relationships with older residents who are confident in reading and writing - which has the added benefit of breaking down often-isolated older people's fears of youngsters.

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