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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 10:48 GMT
School tests could be axed
Pupils (generic)
Wales abolished tests for seven-year-olds in 2002
Testing for 11 and 14 year olds in Wales could be abolished if recommendations of a committee appointed by the Welsh Assembly Goverenment are accepted.

The group says key stage tests should be replaced by a process whereby the teachers themselves assess the children's performance.

If the suggestions are accepted, the tests could disappear in less than five years.

Education Minister Jane Davidson and the teaching union NUT Cymru have welcomed the findings.

The NUT said National Curriculum tests did "not help teaching and learning."

"They have become the ends instead of the means," said NUT Cymru Secretary Gethin Lewis.

Ms Davidson described the proposals as "radical", but added : "On the face of it, they seem eminently sensible."

Jane Davidson, Education Minister
Jane Davidson welcomed the findings
Speaking on BBC Wales, she said :"It is important that we are very, very committed to raising standards, but we need to have the right apparatus in place to do it."

Wales abolished tests for seven year olds in 2002.

The committee - led by Professor Richard Daugherty - is now suggesting the same should happen for 11 and 14 year olds, after views have been sought from teaching unions, parents, and children.

It says that the current system of testing children at the age of 11 - just two months before they go to secondary school - should be replaced by new tests at the age of 10.

These aptitude-style tests would look at the child's ability in the areas of numeracy, literacy and inquiry skills across a range of subjects, and would be the only formal exam the children would sit before they took their GCSEs.

At the end of Year 6 - when children reach the age of 11 - they would then be assessed by their teachers in their core subjects of English or Welsh, maths and science.

The results of these assessments would then be made available to teachers at secondary schools and the child's parents.

Key Stage 1
Year 2 - age 6/7: national tests in English and maths, marked in school, school's results available locally. From 2004, pilot scheme putting greater emphasis on teachers' assessments
Key Stage 2
Year 6 - age 10/11: national tests in English, maths and science, marked externally, school's results published nationally
Key Stage 3
Year 9 - age 13/14: national tests in English, maths and science (and ICT from 2004), marked externally, school's results published nationally

If the recommendations are adopted, it would also mean an end to tests at 14.

They would be replaced by assessments carried out by teachers before children decide which subjects they want to study for GCSE.

Sources close to the committee have described the current system of key stage testing as "a blunt instrument".

One described the exams as more a measure of how the system is doing than how the child is performing.

Mr Lewis said he was pleased that Wales was leading the way in finding appropriate ways to teach, assess and develop the learning skills of young people.

"This means that secondary schools will work with their feeder primary schools to improve the consistency of statutory teacher assessment.

"Building on teachers' professionalism by developing clear moderation procedures in which everyone can have confidence will be to the benefit of teachers, pupils and their parents," he added.

The Welsh Conservative Party has called for the tests to be retained.

"Testing at 11 and 14 years old is very important provided the tests are properly conducted," said David Davies, the party's spokesman in the assembly and AM for Monmouth.

"They should not add too much to the workload but will show up schools that are not performing properly.

"It is not a case of naming and shaming schools. It is important you target appropriate help to schools which are not meeting the required standards.

"If the school fails, the pupil fails and you don't get many chances to put that right."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills in England said it was committed to tests as "a vital part of our national drive to raise standards".

"We will not abandon a system which has served our children so well."

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