Anger mounts over 'insulting' KS2 tables

16th February 1996 at 00:00
Increasing numbers of special needs children and those with poor English will be turned away from primary schools and exclusion rates will soar if Gillian Shephard goes ahead with plans to publish primary league tables based on raw results.

This is the view of John Wilks, chair of the London Association for the Teaching of English (LATE) - an organisation that was in the forefront of the test boycott campaign two years ago.

Mr Wilks fears the Government's long-term plan with key stage 2 tests is to create a new form of 11-plus exam. Then growing numbers of secondary schools will turn away below-average pupils too.

"All the Government need do is bring forward the date of the tests so schools will be able to offer places on the basis of pupils' results," he commented.

"If we make schools compete with each other, none will want to take poorly performing pupils. People will think: 'If we're to be assessed on our test results, it's not fair we should have to deal with these pupils and we won't have them.' Poorly performing pupils already at the school will be got rid of," Mr Wilks said.

Another outcome would be that teachers in schools performing poorly despite huge efforts will feel demoralised. And staff will have to spend more time preparing pupils for the tests. "League tables are resented right across the profession because they are often so inaccurate. Last year some of our students in Year 9 were given zero for an answer because they put the wrong question number on. We didn't bother to appeal because the tests weren't particularly important. If the raw results are published it will be a different matter, " said Mr Wilks, head of English at a London comprehensive.

National tests were not designed to provide league table information. They were meant to be diagnostic exercises and a way for teachers to tell parents where their children were at, he commented.

"They are now being used to try and shape teachers up and make them work harder which is positively insulting."

A questionnaire sent by LATE to schools last summer to discover the effects of the 1995 national tests revealed widespread contempt was shared by teachers of all age groups and all subjects.

Although most responses were from primary and secondary English teachers, the questionnaire also reached some maths and science staff. Teachers deeply resented the financial cost of the tests and felt strongly they were having an adverse effect on educational standards.

"There's no doubt teachers are very angry. I think Gillian Shephard is taking a big gamble publishing key stage 2 results. We won't know how teachers will react until after the union conferences but I think union general secretaries will have difficulty defending the decision they took last year to co-operate with the tests," Mr Wilks added.

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