I believe the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority should question what the aims of the tests are. Are they to test children's knowledge or are they to test their ability to do exams?
If the first, why are the tests timed to such a degree? It is also worth considering that they are being tested on four years' knowledge and content; at KS3 it is presumably on three years' work and GCSE is only two years. This is particularly relevant to the content of the science curriculum.
If the second, what is wrong with training the children in exam techniques and revision, as we did 25 years ago when we did Progress Papers every Friday morning in preparation for the 11-plus. (How long before the shops are full of similar books for parents and teachers to buy?) In preparing pupils for their national tests, I, for one, will not have the time to cover the national curriculum content.
The administration's arrangements allow teachers to "provide appropriate help", including reading words that some children may have difficulty with (in science), "giving advice and encouragement to children who appear to be having difficulty" (in maths) and reminding them to go on to the next question if they find a question they cannot answer (in English - reading). Implicitly, in the administrative arrangements "teachers are to use their professional judgment in making the tests as stress-free as possible". Teachers and parents, then, should not complain and accuse other schools of cheating if they have chosen to subject their own children to strict exam conditions. (I have heard stories of children sitting in rows in the hall with no teacher input, other than from a GCSE-type invigilation.) I hope the accusations levelled in the articles do not cause SCAA to opt for such conditions, making the tests even more stressful.
The "half a tree" I received in instructions and advice was not received with great joy. I do not have time to read 24 pages of glossy booklet on how to administer tests the SCAA way, especially if I stop to think how much all those booklets cost and the fact that I got five copies for one class of 24 pupils. I have received letters telling me to expect the booklets, leaflets about how the external examiners will weight the tests and a 12-page booklet on how to post the tests.
Will SCAA please streamline its instructions? Teachers cannot read reams of "admin-speak". We're too busy doing the job we assume we are being paid for and which we enjoy most - teaching.
That is a factor SCAA, the Department for Education, the Government and every other body involved in education at national level have forgotten in their quest for raised standards.
BARBARA HOUGH St Andrew's CE primary school Andrew Close Blackburn, Lancs