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A sense of failure far outweighs the schoolchildren's sense of success

Having taken part in the key stage 2 national tests I feel I must pass on my concerns.

I felt the tests were totally inappropriate for children of this age. We spend a considerable amount of time matching children's work to their ability and raising self-esteem yet in one week we have badly dented six or seven years' hard work in terms of the children believing in their own abilities.

Generally, tests have never been the best way to assess. It would appear that at GCSE level and above much has been done to move away from exams with more emphasis on coursework, so why are we moving towards it?

The key stage 2 test booklets (maths and science) covered levels 3-to-5 which covers the ability range of the average nine-year-old to the average 14-year-old.

The jump from level 2 to level 3-to-5 penalises the less able and average children who feel a sense of failure.

It also allows more able children to lose faith in their ability, in all cases, the sense of failure far outweighs the sense of success.

Other issues are: * Time allocations for completing the maths and English were totally inadequate. Without the time limit some children would easily have achieved the next level.

* Key stage 1 level 3 is not the same as key stage 2 level 3.

* To succeed in maths and science. Children need to have high levels of reading comprehension.

* The format of the questions and the language used was not child-friendly and caused confusion.

* The reliability of the tests must be questioned in view of the wide variety of administration procedures which were permitted.

* There is a danger the primary curriculum will be narrowed as some school may gear their teaching toward revision and training for the tests.

Finally, there is a huge moral issue regarding the money spent on national tests, the glossy brochures, the postage of scripts to schools, to markers and then back to school, the training and payment of markers.

These inappropriate and invalid tests are costing the nation at least Pounds 8 million for this year. Assessment is, of course, a vital part of ensuring we are achieving our goals in education and I would favour the Scottish model where SATS are given at the appropriate level when the teacher feels it is the appropriate time.

The 1995 SATS in England and Wales did little to help us assess, were detrimental to our children's self-esteem and interrupted valuable learning time.

KIM HAZELDINE Deputy headteacher Elm Park Primary School Nicholls Lane Winterbourne Bristol

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