Editor's comment

4th January 2008 at 00:00
Not for the first-time, teachers and education officials are at odds over testing. Scotland's largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, claims that too many councils are guilty of an over-use of national tests in schools and that the collation of the data they spawn is not only of little use to schools, teachers or pupils but also contributes to a damaging league table approach.

Directors of education, on the other hand, argue that, without reliable data, they have no good means of measuring attainment. They want to be able to see how schools are shaping up in relation to past performances and to comparable schools.

The recent publication of the review of Scottish education by the OECD has been grist to the directors'mill. The report said it wanted to see an extension of the Scottish Survey of Achievement to cover all pupils, thereby undermining one of the key principles of the SSA - that it be based on a sampling approach.

The EIS has picked up on this aspect of the report, pointing out that the OECD recommendation runs counter to the approach of the Programme for International Student Assessment, which relies on the sampling of groups of 15-year-olds across the world. Given that this programme commands international respect, why does the OECD want to change the nature of the SSA?

The argument between teachers and managers demonstrates an inherent contradiction: the EIS bases its approach on the belief that all teachers can be trusted to use their professional judgment; education directors believe this is not enough and want external checks.

Essentially, this is an issue about trust, which seems to be a commodity in short supply. Ian Smith argues (right) that teachers should trust their pupils more. Is it time for education directors to trust teachers more?

Neil Munro.

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