Cognitive tests are not clever

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
AS a learning support worker in a comprehensive one of my recent duties has been to help in the invigilation of cognitive ability tests (CATs).

I am told that schools use these test results as baseline assessment for children entering secondary schools as well as for GCSE predictive purposes. It is my understanding that intelligence tests had been discredited some time ago.

However, the pupils I was assisting were under the impression that the tests were "to find out how intelligent you are". I should like to question the value of these tests as I am concerned that they may be harmful to children's learning.

First, they carry several hidden and misleading messages: that intelligence is fixed, that it is limited to what is effectively English, maths and analysing visual patterns, and that how you do at school depends on how intelligent you are. Surely the message that schools should be putting across to all pupils is that your potential is immeasurable and that how you do at school depends on how hard you work?

Second, the impact of these tests on special needs pupils is worrying. For example, the sustained work that I have seen put in during maths classes to raise self-esteem and mathematical ability with the pupils I support may well have been eroded by one afternoon of testing.

I fear it will be back to square one and, "I can't do maths I'm rubbish at it".

Another worrying issue is the aura of secrecy that surrounds these tests. I do not, as a parent, recall being informed of the date on which my children would be taking these tests. Neither do I recall being informed of the results. However, if I take my son to our family doctor for a test to ascertain to which blood group he belongs, I am told the results.

If CATs are regarded as both not very valid and potentially harmful to individual children's learning, which is I presume the reason for not disclosing the results, then why do pupils have to take them?

Why can't schools use key stage 2 test results as a tool for baseline assessment and GCSE predictions?

Claire Planel

Pitch House

The Street

Kingscourt

Stroud

Gloucestershire

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