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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 08:06 GMT 09:06 UK
Tests for youngsters to be scrapped
Junior School Children in Classroom (Class), - boy boys - pupils, aged 10-11 years old (year olds) during lesson (lessons). St Saviours Church of England Primary School, Maida Vale, London.
Jane Davidson said resources could be better used
School tests for seven year olds are set to be scrapped in Wales as part of a plan to overhaul education for the next decade.

The National Assembly's "paving document" for education in Wales has called for greater concentration on established teacher assessment methods and play.

Jane Davidson, Education Minister
Jane Davidson said distinct policies would be pursued
But some plans outlined in the UK Government's education White Paper, also released on Wednesday, are still up for consultation across the border and Welsh plans could be quite different.

The assembly will consult every school in Wales on plans to limit the role and powers of school governors over staff appointments and dismissals.

Assembly Education Minister Jane Davidson said the resources used in testing pupils could be better targeted used to help raise standards across the curriculum.

The abolition of the tests - scrapped partly because children are achieving higher grades - will come as part of a new Foundation Stage for children aged three to seven.

Social skills

Releasing the paper for lifelong education, The Learning Country, Ms Davidson said there would be "much more focus on social skills and play" because frequent testing was not required.

She said: "We will also look at the stages at which qualifications are taken and consult on the school of the future along with action to introduce the Welsh Baccalaureate.

"We will widen access to lifelong learning after the age of 16 by offering new financial support to students, apprentices and trainees and setting up a credit-based qualification system."

Girl writing
Frequent testing has not been popular with some parents
The proposals also seek to break barriers between academic and vocational training and between the stages at which qualifications are conventionally taken.

The Welsh Assembly set a first for devolution in July 2001 when it abolished school league tables.

The UK Government's bill for education, expected towards the end of the year, will cover provision in England and Wales, but the assembly has discretion to modify plans for Welsh pupils.

The UK bill proposes more private sector involvement in state-run schools, help for new teachers to pay off student loans, helping schools to share teachers and establishing more localised governing systems.

Plans also afford more opportunities for specialised schools. In Wales there are no specialists and there are no plans to change the comprehensive system.

Ms Davidson added: "We are now starting to pursue policies that are right for Wales.

"We shall take our own policy direction to get the best for Wales."

The Welsh teaching union UCAC welcomed the assembly's plan.

General secretary Edwin Williams said: "We must congratulate the National Assembly on publishing a separate paper for Wales.

"This shows that education is different in Wales to that in England and that the assembly is ploughing its own furrow by developing educational policies that are relevant to Wales".

But the proposals came under fire from Conservative assembly member Alun Cairns, who branded the plan to ditch tests "ludicrous."

He said: "Tests a the age of seven help teachers and parents identify problems with a child's reading, writing and arithmetic.

"Tests at seven help identify problems early enough to correct any learning difficulty before it is too late, and give parents an indication of how their child's education is developing."

Jane Davidson, Education Minister
"I want to close the gap in education"
See also:

04 Sep 01 | Education
14 Feb 03 | Education
01 Dec 00 | Wales
16 Aug 01 | Wales
28 Jun 01 | Wales
05 Jul 01 | Unions 2001
20 Jul 01 | Education
17 Jul 01 | Education
29 Jun 01 | Business
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