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Targeted from the first day in school

THEY don't dally at Charleston primary in Cove. On their first afternoon pupils are put through PIPS tests to assess basic skills in language and maths.

Teachers are now confident in using the test materials and enjoy the process - as do the pupils, Barbara Gray, the school's headteacher, says.

"It helps teachers and the school to direct resources to the right areas. It is targeted early intervention, much more than we used to do and we can then put in support for learning staff and classroom assistants where they are most needed. I have already seen the dividends with our primary 2 kids this year."

Teachers have always claimed that standardised testing merely confirms their judgments, and Charleston staff say that the PIPS tests are no different. "The end-of-yar results reconfirm everything we already know in the main, but it sometimes gives a good analysis of a particular area," Mrs Gray says. "The results are valued."

She believes the system serves as a useful evaluation of classroom practice. "It is interesting to compare one school with another and with local averages, although you must take a lot of factors into account," Mrs Gray says. "The most important message is the value added for the individual pupil and for the school as a whole."

Parents can also be assured teacher judgments are backed by a reliable external testing system. "We might say their child is better in reading than in maths, although we would not go into a nitty-gritty analysis with parents," Mrs Gray says. "It's a reinforcement tool."

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