[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Call to scrap tests for under-16s
Pupils sitting exams
Some children can face about 70 exams in their school lives
The national exams sat by under-16s in England's schools should be scrapped, a teaching standards watchdog has urged.

The General Teaching Council (GTC) believes the tests are failing to raise standards and placing "added stress" on pupils, teachers and parents.

Instead of tests at seven, 11 and 14, the GTC said standards could be checked by monitoring a sample of pupils.

But the Department for Education said parents valued the information gleaned from tests and they would remain.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson said the current testing regime provided transparency, openness and accountability.

"Parents don't want to go back to a world where schools were closed institutions, no-one knew what was going on in them," he said.

League tables

Every child in England takes a total of eight national curriculum tests, often known as standard assessment tests (Sats), at the ages of seven, 11 and 14, before GCSE and A-Level examinations.

According to the GTC, at some schools children can face about 70 tests or exams in formal settings between the ages of seven and 16.

Scrap Sats and get some credibility back into the regular qualification exams
Paul Farrar, Fareham

Keith Bartley, chief executive of the GTC, said: "We need to trust teachers more and let them do what they are trained for."

He said employers "want to see better skilled youngsters" and were not concerned about results of exams sat when aged seven.

Earlier this year the head of the exams authority also suggested samples of pupils, rather than all pupils, could be tested to check standards in England.

However, Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said Sats should stay for the time being, but could eventually be replaced by progress-testing.

Exams are quite healthy for children to get used to
Nick Seaton
Campaign for Real Education

The General Teaching Council, which is an independent regulatory body working to promote better standards of teaching, maintains testing a sample of children, rather than every child, would help ease pressure on them.

Adopting such a system would still see teachers set exams drawn from a national "bank of tests" at times appropriate to their pupils.

The council says Sats are defended because they are as much about the position obtained by schools in performance tables on the back of the results.

The GTC is hoping that an inquiry by the education select committee will persuade the government to drop its support for national testing.

'Enormous pressure'

An end to national testing would find favour with many teachers, who have long argued that Sats and performance tables encourage teaching simply on how to pass tests.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "There are all sorts of malign effects from the current testing regime.

"There is enormous pressure on youngsters and there's a lot of training to take the tests.

"Schools themselves feel under enormous pressure because they are judged by the test results in a very crude way in the school performance tables."

Parents need and greatly value the information they get from performance tables
Department of Education spokesperson

Liberal Democrats education spokeswoman Sarah Teather said Sats were a "stressful and bureaucratic process" and took teachers away from personalised teaching.

Shadow education secretary David Willetts said the Tories supported national examinations as a "tried and tested" method to identify standards.

But he said it was important to ensure teaching was not just focused on raising a school's league table position.

The Campaign for Real Education - set up to press for higher standards - also said it continued to back tests.

The Department for Education said testing and performance tables were accountability measures "essential to extending and maintaining" improvements in standards.

A spokeswoman said: "Parents need and greatly value the information they get from performance tables."

However, the government did announce in January that a pilot scheme would examine whether more frequent assessments could replace fixed testing.

Tests would be taken when teachers thought children were ready.

The changes the General Teaching Council wants

Should national exams be scrapped?
10 Jun 07 |  Have Your Say
School tests: who takes what
10 Nov 04 |  Education
Schools repeatedly testing pupils
10 May 07 |  Education
Head teachers demand test reforms
05 May 07 |  Education
National school tests 'could end'
21 Mar 07 |  Education

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific