Now the Government, in its efforts to raise standards, has introduced targets. The result is that rather rough-and-ready tests have suddenly become very high stakes indeed. What was judged a suitable level of attainment for an average child has been transformed into a minimum level of competence - with penalties if it isn't achieved.
This transformation, however illegitimate in the eyes of statisticians, is defensible as a way of ratcheting up standards. But it won't work without squeaky-clean marking. Our system is already bedevilled by lack of trust. The Government doesn't trust the teachers, and the compliment is returned - with interest - by teachers who see themselves disparaged for political purposes (see Platform, previous page). If the tests' credibility is undermined, we are all losers.