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Briefing:The low-down on the national tests;Checklist;Report

Maureen O'Connor analyses 1997's results while Gerald Haigh has put together a last-minute checklist of things to remember

* If you need to open the key stage 2 tests earlier than one day in advance to make arrangements for special needs pupils, you must have permission from your local authority or the QCA. The deadline for applying was February 28. Check this was done before you open the tests early. If you didn't get permission, you can't open early. * Read all documentation carefully. Check the rules about, for example, which pupils can have readers, and when it is permissible to use aids such as dictionaries and practical maths apparatus.

* Use all permitted techniques and helpers to the fullest extent. To do so is neither cheating nor sharp practice - the tests have been devised and constructed on the assumption that this will happen. In particular, look carefully at the 'Specific arrangements' section in the Assessment and Reporting Arrangements booklet, which the QCA should have sent to all schools. Experience shows that schools have had various attitudes to these arrangements. Some have made extensive use of adult readers, to read maths and science tests to individual pupils. Others have hardly done this at all.

* Make sure that everyone who has to give instructions is able to give them clearly, confidently and precisely.

* Let the children know that the tests are important, but do not make them too anxious. This is a difficult line to tread, and the approach must be consistent from all adults.

* Sit down and work out where children will be placed. Those who have a reader or a helper will need somewhere to go. At key stage 2, one way to free up rooms is to put most pupils in the hall during the tests, but some teachers feel this is off-putting. It is up to each school. * If you have not done so, practice for the key stage 2 taped mental maths test using last year's tape. Experience shows children need the prior experience of hearing a recording.

* If the pupils are in a classroom, think about the arrangement of furniture so that there are, for example, clear sight lines from desks to both teacher and blackboard. Try it out with pupils in advance.

* Make sure there are far more than enough sharp pencils.

* If you have not yet let the children experience working silently, without them leaving their seats, make sure you have some sessions before the tests. * Make sure you give all the children a drink and a biscuit after the tests have been completed.

*Provide briefing time for classroom assistants or parent volunteers. Take time to answer their questions and to make sure they know exactly what they may and may not do.

* Keep checking that pupils know what will be expected of them. Teachers are used to doing sit-down mental tests. Young children are not. Take nothing for granted.

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