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Saturday, 12 May, 2001, 23:21 GMT 00:21 UK
Promise to assess pupils' exam stress
Boy writing
Some people say the "test culture" has gone too far
The recently-appointed Children's Commissioner for Wales is considering carrying out research into the impact of frequent tests and exams on pupils.

Peter Clarke, formerly director of Childline Cymru, said many charities had reported a rise in the number of children contacting them at exam time because of stress.


Provide reassurance and don't get too anxious on your child's behalf

QCA guidance to parents
Primary school children were having to sit 30 national tests, GCSE pupils as many as 40 exams and the new A-level curriculum meant even more exams for youngsters, he said.

Mr Clarke, who took up his post in the spring, said the matter was very much on his agenda.

SATs

This as seven, 11 and 14 year olds across England and Wales and 14 year olds in Northern Ireland sit national curriculum tests (popularly known as SATs) in the core subjects of English, maths and science.

The body behind the tests in England - the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) - says seven year olds are not supposed to understand that they are being tested and their papers will be marked by classroom teachers.

exams notice
About 600,000 pupils will sit tests at each key stage.
The QCA says the approach is designed to minimise any stress on the children.

It maintains there is little evidence to suggest that children suffer anxiety as a result of Key Stage 1 tests.

Tests at Key Stage 2 and 3 are marked by external examiners, typically serving teachers or people recently retired from the profession.

Plenty of sleep

The QCA advises parents that it is important children are not tired when they sit the tests and recommend early nights, as well as time to let off steam.

It also encourages parents to take an interest in their child's homework throughout the year and make sure they have a quiet place to do their work.

"Provide reassurance and don't get too anxious on your child's behalf," QCA guidelines recommend.

"Be encouraging throughout the year - this is more helpful to your child than too much pressure toward the time of the tests," the guidance says.

Results

Parents will be given a report on their child's results and an assessment of their progress by teachers by the end of the summer term.

The results of children at Key Stage 2 (11 year olds) tend to be the most keenly awaited, because these are used to form the league tables for primary schools published in England.

But the timing of the results of the tests for 11 year olds (Key Stage 2) makes it impossible for them to be used for secondary school selection, which is largely complete before the tests are taken.

Pupils in Wales, who are studying in Welsh-medium schools, also sit a test on the Welsh language.

Tests in England began on 8 May and will continue to 18 May; in Wales, pupils will finish all their tests on 14 May.

School children in Northern Ireland do not take formal tests at seven or 11, only at 14.

Scotland

Pupils in Scotland do not sit SATs - revised arrangements for national testing were introduced in 1993.

These provide testing on a voluntary basis at the five levels of the curriculum in mathematics, reading and writing.

A pupil is tested when his or her teacher deems it appropriate, with most pupils expected to move on from one level to the next at roughly two year intervals.

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See also:

23 Jan 01 | Wales
Guardian's powers 'too limited'
13 Apr 00 | Education
Adults blamed for pupils' test stress
20 Sep 00 | Education
Schools challenge test results
01 Jul 99 | UK Systems
Curriculum and testing
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