The British Red Cross leaflet used in this year's key stage 3 English test requires a reading age well into the 15-year range. The extract from "The Endless Sleep" was beyond the general knowledge and understanding of a great many children in the target range of the test.
The concept of the tests does not reflect the emphasis in the national curriculum on "an integrated programme of speaking and listening, reading and writing". Questions are heavily weighted towards reading skills with no account taken of attainment target 1 (speaking and listening), apart from its constituting one-third of the teacher-assessment level.
The assessment objectives seem to relate more closely to the old standing Orders, rather than the revised Orders. It is also interesting to note that "supporting comments with reference to textual detail" does not appear until Grade D of the GCSE literature assessment criteria, while for a grade E "references to general features and some specific detail" is all that is required. The assessment objectives for the key stage 3 tests state: "sustain and develop interpretations of the text, supporting opinion by reference to the text".
The scale of difference between having to cope with this material to achieve a level 4, and the very basic skills required for level 3, is another cause for concern, as is the corresponding mismatch between a KS2 level 4 and the requirements of the KS3 test. The anomaly of some pupils achieving a level 8 on the extension paper, but being denied the award of this level because they have only scored a level 6 on tier 4-7, also supports my contention that this paper is seriously flawed.
The assessment criteria are subjective, or at least open to personal interpretation, and the general expectation of standard for the award of a level is very variable, with no moderation process. I am very concerned that this year's key stage 3 test has demotivated pupils just as they are about to embark on GCSE courses.
I H KASPRYZK English faculty manager Hathershaw School Bellfield Avenue, Oldham