Plymouth's 1998 results found that scores were adversely affected by up to 10 per cent by the absence of more able children. The smaller the school the greater the effect: three level 4 children absent from a year group of 30 automatically reduced the scores by 10 per cent no matter what the others achieve.
The Plymouth Association of Primary Headteachers wants to underline the fact that the present system is making it unnecessarily hard for schools to achieve the Government's targets.
While we understand that ministers may not want to rely on teacher assessment, there are some simple alterations that could alleviate the present inaccuracies.
For instance, where a child has sat one test but missed another a teacher assessment that confirms the test result could stand. Where children miss both tests it would be an easy process to allow them to sit an alternative paper on their return. This should not delay the marking process much because most children return within a week. The Government would then have access to undistorted figures that should show schools moving towards the 2002 targets.
Liz Tarr, Chair PAPH, Co Thornbury primary school, Estover, Plymouth