A blow to the principles of 5-14

5th July 1996 at 01:00
Any pretence that the national testing of all pupils in the first two years of secondary school is a logical progression from the primary tests within the 5-14 programme disappeared during the course of the debates on the Education (Scotland) Bill (page three). Pupils are to sit the tests at the start of S1 and around Easter of their second year. In other words, there is no thought of following the primary example by which pupils are tested as they complete a level of the 5-14 guidelines.

Therefore the case for the new tests has to be argued on fresh grounds. It is not a matter of completing 5-14 business but rather a statement about the lack of progress made by pupils in S1 and S2, about which the Inspectorate has complained for some time. Those who argue that new tests are an unnecessary distraction during the settling-in period in secondary, or are yet another burden on teachers, or represent another example of the Scottish exam obsession which brings external tests for every year except S3, will be able to argue their case without reference to 5-14.

It is absurd of the minister to suggest that tests have a natural place in S1 and S2. At the beginning of S1 they will reflect only primary achievement but with different criteria for assessment. If whole cohorts of pupils are assessed the work of individuals, assessed by levels in primary, will not be much illuminated.

It is paradoxical therefore that Raymond Robertson, having conspired to undermine the secondary element of 5-14, should reinstate level F for pupils who have gone through the five previous levels in primary or early in S1. Abler pupils have to be fully challenged, and level F will help to do that. It ought to prepare them for Credit level work in S3 and S4.

But why in thus underpinning 5-14 is it necessary also to undermine it?

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