All style, no substance;Letter

8th October 1999 at 01:00
I WAS amused by teacher Barrie Day's riposte (TES, September 24) to my defence of the national tests. If I were a key stage 3 English test marker, I would have no hesitation in giving him high marks for style. I would not be so generous, however for accuracy or depth of analysis.

First, I was not singing my own organisation's praises, but quoting the verdict of this summer's independent scrutiny of the tests which concluded that "our system of national tests is well in advance of that of many, if not all, of our international counterparts". This generally positive judgment has been confirmed this year by our own survey of teacher opinion which shows overwhelming test satisfaction.

Second, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has never "sacked" any of its marking agencies.

Third, no one has ever suggested that key stage 2 and 3 English tests are assessing exactly the same things, but broad comparisons are possible using the level descriptions on which both sets of tests are based.

Fourth, appeals against results are running at a very low level. This year they averaged 1.5 per cent of the total number of pupils taking the tests - and this, remember, is an open system where marked scripts are returned to schools.

We have never pretended that the testing regime is perfect - mistakes are clearly sometimes made - and we are committed to a range of improvements following the recent scrutiny. But to deny the overall achievement, on the basis of a single school's experience, is to fail to take the wider view.

Dr Nick Tate

Chief executive

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

29 Bolton Street,

London W1Y

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