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Battlelines drawn again over national testing

THE Scottish Parent Teacher Council, a key opponent of national testing almost 10 years ago, has reiterated its hostility to externally set and marked tests in the 3-14 curriculum.

Several authorities, including East Renfrewshire, favour banks of external tests in key subject areas to provide more reliable information and assessment but the SPTC says it "totally rejects this proposal".

In its submission to the Scottish Executive, the parents' organisation states:

"If such tests were introduced, they would immediately be regarded as of critical importance by parents and this would increase anxiety levels all round. Those who were able to would have their children coached for the tests.

"This would then obviate the purpose of the tests to provide accurate information because uncoached children would perform accurately and coached children would overperform and reach a level that they probably could not sustain at secondary school.

"If the aim is to achieve an accurate picture at transition, then any assessment must be low profile so as not to distort the effort."

The SPTC insists no system of assessmnt is totally objective and accurate. "It is important to recognise that the main purpose of assessment is to facilitate the children's progress, not to evaluate the success of a school or teacher."

Meanwhile, standardised test results in Edinburgh of 3,800 pupils in S1 broadly match teachers' own assessments.

The city reports: "Standardised assessment of reading in S1 corroborated the 5-14 levels in reading provided by primary schools and supported the authority view that the attainment levels in primary schools are generally accurate and reliable."

There was some variation among individual pupils and schools but it was difficult to tell which measure was more accurate. Schools reacted positively to the new information provided by the reading tests, although tables reveal more than four years' difference in reading ages in S1 between schools.

The average reading age at Castlebrae High in Edinburgh's disadvantaged Craigmillar housing scheme is eight years nine months, against, for example, 13 years at James Gillespie High in the city centre. The average is 11 years 11 months.

Leader, page 16

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