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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
England to keep testing pupils
Testing of schoolchildren in Wales is likely to be scaled down even further - but the Westminster government is unmoved by the arguments.

Wales dropped the testing of seven year olds three years ago - leaving only England in the UK still doing national tests at that age.

This year roughly a quarter of England's seven year olds were trying a different approach which relies much more heavily on teacher assessment of pupils' abilities.

But the government has no plans to extend this to Key Stage 2 (11 year olds) or Key Stage 3 (14 year olds).


A report commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government recommends replacing the Key Stage 2 tests with skills tests in numeracy, literacy and problem-solving when children are 10 and teacher assessment when they are 11.

children in classroom

Testing at 14 should be replaced with further teacher assessment before children choose their GCSE subjects, it said.

But England's School Standards Minister, David Miliband, said it was important to have independent, objective, national benchmarks of success at age 11.

'More to be done'

Studies showed that children who did well at 11 would do well in their GCSEs five years later, and were more likely to stay in education.

"As minister for schools standards, I have got to back a system part of which has been testing objective, independent benchmarks in order to drive up those standards," he said.

The focus now should be on how to improve on the 75% of 11 year olds reaching the expected standard.

"We think there are still 60,000 youngsters who can reach that standard but don't yet do so."

Liberal Democrat spokesman Phil Willis called the report "encouraging" and said England should follow suit.

"Parents and teachers need to be able to monitor their children's progress, which is best done through effective assessment and national sampling," he said.

Workload concern

But the Acting General Secretary of the largest teachers' union in Wales, Chris Keates of the NASUWT, repeated a warning she gave the Welsh Education Minister, Jane Davidson, at the union's conference in Llandudno last month.

"The proposals to phase out tests for 11 and 14 year olds undoubtedly have a superficial attraction but are in fact a Trojan Horse," she said.

England is now the only country in the UK to continue with the path of testing to destruction
Dr Mary Bousted
Association of Teachers and Lecturers
"Emerging experience from the removal of the national tests for seven years olds in Wales is that the number of tests and the amount of teacher assessment has in fact increased.

"This relentless enthusiasm for doing things differently in Wales has the potential to make things worse.

"The problem is not and never has been the tests themselves but the amount of testing, the accountability arrangements and the culture of competition between schools.

"All of this has contributed to excessive workload of teachers and does nothing to raise standards."

This presented a threat to the agreement reached between government in England and Wales and most of the unions, aimed at reducing teachers' workloads.

League tables

The leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Mary Bousted, said: "Where Wales has gone, England should follow.

"Teachers do not need to test children at 11 years of age to know what standards they have achieved or where they need to go next in their learning.

"England is now the only country in the UK to continue with the path of testing to destruction. It needs to stop, and quickly."

John Dunford of the Secondary Heads Association said: "The main problem in England is not the tests, but the way in which the results are used to judge the performance of schools through league tables.

"Teaching to the test has become a survival strategy for schools under the greatest pressure."

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