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Birmingham seeks power to scrap tests

ONe of BRITAIN'S largest education authority is proposing to scrap tests and tables in its primary schools.

Tony Howell, Birmingham's chief education officer, is asking for permission under the Power to Innovate clause in the 2002 Education Act to replace national tests and league tables in its 350 primary schools with a system of teacher assessment. Proposals include:

* a foundation stage-style curriculum in key stage 1, structured around areas of learning rather than subjects.

* A profile at the end of KS1 showing children's achievements in several areas.

* Teachers assessing children's progress at the end of KS2 through portfolio of work underpinned by tests.

Mr Howell said: "We want to look at the way in which teachers gather evidence of achievement and use that with some aspects of assessment in the classroom to validate children's performance.

"I think the tests skew the curriculum which results in teaching to the test and do not tell teachers or children anything they do not already know.

"A validated teacher assessment scheme would still provide information to parents about how their child and the school were doing.

"If we continue with what we have done for the past five or six years, we will get the same results. We need to change things quite radically. The children who are already doing well will continue to do well, but this will produce opportunities for children who fail under the current system."

Power to innovate allows schools, local authorities or education action zones to be exempted from any area of education law for a limited period, in order to trial a specific project. The proposals must show how they will raise standards.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "The wide-ranging proposals from Birmingham will be considered, but the performance tables and national tests are absolutely central to the Government's standards agenda. They ensure every child is supported and none left behind."

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