Do your science test in Yoruba

10th February 2006 at 00:00
Translators will allow primary pupils to do key stage 2 exams in their mother tongue, reports Helen Ward

Primary pupils who are not fluent in English will be allowed a translator during maths and science tests for the first time this year.

The move has been welcomed by headteachers in schools where children speak English as an additional language.

Heads had argued that children's ability in maths or science was not always reflected in their test scores if they struggled with English. Now the National Assessment Agency has said that schools can arrange for translators to help children in the tests.

No permission from the agency will be needed, although if translators are not available on the day, schools will need to get permission to allow the pupils to sit the test at a different time.

Schools can also provide written translations, if this is normal classroom practice for the pupil. However, the cost of translation will have to be paid by the school.

Nationally more than 395,000 primary pupils are not native English speakers. But the proportion in each authority varies widely. In Tower Hamlets, east London, almost three-quarters of pupils do not speak English as their first language. By contrast, in Halton, in the North-west, just 27 pupils (0.3 per cent) are not native English speakers.

There are 32 languages spoken at Wilberforce primary in Westminster, central London. The 60 pupils in Year 6 include speakers of Arabic, Kurdish, Somali, Lingala, German, Farsi, Portuguese, Albanian, Bengali, PolishRoma, Yoruba, Russian, Urdu, Spanish and Pashto.

Angela Piddock, the headteacher, said: "We will use translators this year, although there is the question of finding them."

At Bangabandhu primary in Tower Hamlets, most pupils speak Bengali as their first language and about 10 of the 58 Year 6 pupils will have the tests translated.

Cathy Phillips, the head, said: "This will help some children who are still thinking in their first language. But others can understand through having it read to them in English."

Geoffrey Bowden, general secretary of the Association of Translation Companies, said: "I would be surprised if our members could not support academic institutions but it is for those schools to plan ahead. They know if they have a student with a particular language requirement."

One in four teachers surveyed for the National Assessment Agency felt the language in the maths and science tests last year was inaccessible for pupils whose first language was not English.

The test results of children who do not speak English and who have been in the country for less than two years are not included in the league tables.

* A quarter of teachers believe last year's reading test for 11-year-olds was biased towards boys, a survey for the National Assessment Agency reveals.

Pupils had to answer questions about the diary of a female lorry driver and two passages about cowboys.

Boys' reading results went up to 82 per cent reaching the expected level 4 last year from 79 per cent in 2004. Girls' results remained static at 87 per cent.

The survey of 338 teachers and heads by the Social and Market Strategic Research consultancy also found one in three primary heads considered sending back the English test papers for re-marking - and one in seven did so.

Kevin Quinn, head of Tonacliffe primary, near Rochdale, Lancashire, sent 37 writing papers for re-marking. Nine children had their writing levels increased.

Mr Quinn said: "A number of headteachers have told me that, although they suspected that their pupils' writing scripts were poorly marked, they simply did not have the time to submit review requests."


Primary forum 24

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