She agreed with a recommendation from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority that the tests should remain in their present written form using a passage from a Shakespeare play rather than being based on assessment by teachers.
SCAA chairman Sir Ron Dearing said that evaluations showed that the tests had been effective: "We would need to be convinced that any move away from the current arrangements would enhance achievement". Mrs Shephard replied that her decision had been "fully vindicated."
Sir Ron also said that assessment of grammar, spelling and punctuation would be more rigorous. A test could be piloted next year and a new test paper issued in 1998.