Targets for trust

The news that there have been widespread complaints about the marking of the key stage 2 tests (page 3) is alarming. We know that the teaching profession was sceptical when tests were introduced; but they have since accepted them in the interests of increased accountability, information for parents and other teachers, and because they do function - in some cases - as a useful focus and motivator.

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.

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