Seeing red over 'good marks'

A punitive ranking system of future primary students is to be introduced based on the recently published government finding that half the children who achieve a "good mark" in the English and mathematics tests at the age of 11 do not "gain decent GCSE grades".

Would it not have been more sensible for those advising the UK government on these matters to suggest an investigation into the means and practices by which those 11-year-olds gained the "good mark"? Data collected by my research team at the University of Manchester from the mid 1990s until 2008 showed that test preparation was excessive and teaching in tested subjects concentrated solely on tested items, to the detriment of the depth of teaching and consequently learning.

In short, a misrepresentative picture of primary "success" was being painted, with the inevitable "falling away" during secondary education. If the government, in response to the messages from the 10-year data survey, had introduced either light-touch sampling or, even better, a rigorous continuing assessment programme across the majority (rather than a core minority) of subjects, this debate would be in more positive mode by now.

Professor Bill Boyle, Chair of educational assessment, University of Manchester.

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