Assessment before S1

10th October 1997 at 01:00
I would like to clarify the report (TESS, September 26) of my remarks at the Edinburgh headteachers conference on raising achievement in S1 and S2. I did not say that "we cannot trust our primary colleagues to assess".

What I actually said was that the practice prevalent in secondary schools of putting S1 pupils back a level within 5-14 and calling it "consolidation" happened because many secondary teachers do not trust their primary colleagues to assess.

Indeed I went on to argue that progression and continuity will only be achieved within 5-14, especially across P6 to S2, if time is made available for primary and secondary teachers to meet and discuss what the levels actually mean. It cannot be done by remote control, and it is, above all else, a resource issue.

When Andrew Chirnside, deputy chief inspector, wrote in the 1970s of three stages which he observed as pupils go through primary and early secondary, he was more prophetic than he realised. He saw the "onset of difficulty" as the curriculum becomes more demanding around P4-P5; the "onset of specialism" in P6-P7 and pupils begin to meet the challenges of a less integrated curriculum; and the "onset of alienation" in S12 as the fragmented curriculum fails to build on their prior learning.

Far from being critical of primary teachers, I believe they do a tremendous job in helping their pupils become independent and effective learners. It is the lack of understanding on the part of secondary colleagues - as a result of the lack of time for genuine curricular liaison - which causes the lack of progression.

If we could create more staff development time for primary staff to meet together across schools and to meet with secondary colleagues, then many of the problems of lack of progression, continuity and challenge associated with the transition from P7 to S1 would be solved.


Quality in Education Centre Strathclyde University

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