Editor's letter

20th April 2001 at 01:00
It's SAT time of year again. Not only in Years 2 and 6, but, in most schools, right through the juniors. We now assess children more frequently, and in more detail, than virtually any other country. An "average" child undergoes 19 statutory assessments, including three baselines, teacher assessments and paper SATs, during the primary years. The more able will have 27, as they aim for higher levels. Adding in optional tests at Years 3, 4 and 5 gives a total of 35 assessments. Performance management is driving some data-hungry teachers to do even more testing. There is a danger not only of demoralising those who don't do well, but of fcusing children on passing tests, rather than on developing a love of learning. It can do the same to schools. The Government wants to encourage "formative assessment", which gives children ongoing, constructive feedback, and a broad curriculum in which the arts flourish. At the same time, they are raising the targets for 11-year-olds for 2004, increasing the pressure to narrow the curriculum. They do not know how to reconcile their various wishes.

The value of tests is that they promote consistency, provide information and help ensure that certain things are taught. They should not run roughshod over everything else.

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