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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
Johnson rejects tests scrap call
Alan Johnson
The education secretary said parents valued existing tests
Calls to scrap national exams sat by under-16s in England have been rejected by the education secretary.

The General Teaching Council, an independent regulatory body, said tests were failing to raise standards and placed added stress on pupils.

But Alan Johnson said ditching the tests, which are sat at seven, 11 and 14, would be "profoundly wrong".

He said they had helped raise attainment and provided a transparency and accountability that parents valued.

"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 told the BBC.

There are all sorts of malign effects from the current testing regime
John Bangs
National Union of Teachers

"Our responsibility is to ensure that our children leave school with a good grounding in English, Maths and Science."

Pupils take national curriculum tests, often known as Sats, at the ages of seven, 11 and 14.

The 11-year-olds' results form the basis of the primary school league tables. One set of secondary school tables is based on the 14-year-olds' results.

'Trust teachers'

The GTC, which works to promote better standards of teaching, has submitted a report to the Commons Education and Skills Select Committee.

It maintains the policy of national exams for the under-16s forces teachers to focus resources on how to pass tests instead of concentrating on a broader education.

How can we measure pupils' performance and spot those who need extra help if they are not tested?
Ann, Blackpool

"Evidence from teachers indicates that high stakes testing has a narrowing effect upon the curriculum, by moving the focus of curriculum delivery away from being broad and balanced to a narrower one based on test content," it says.

It suggests a check could be kept on standards by monitoring a sample of children in about 1% of primary schools and 3% of secondary schools.

Pupils would still be encouraged to sit exams drawn from a national "bank of tests" but these would take place at times deemed appropriate by their teachers.
Teenagers taking exam
The GTC believes national tests cause additional stress for pupils

Ending national testing would also find favour with many teachers.

Keith Bartley, chief executive of the GTC, said: "Placing added stress on pupils, teachers and parents on a regular basis before that time is not creating the best environment for learning.

"We need to trust teachers more and let them do what they are trained for."

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.

Parents and children on the stress tests can cause

Call to scrap tests for under-16s
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05 May 07 |  Education
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21 Mar 07 |  Education
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08 Jan 07 |  Education
Pupil tests 'should be replaced'
27 Dec 06 |  Education

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