Free us from test tyranny

10th August 2001 at 01:00
Now that another head has apparently tampered with national curriculum test papers in order to improve her school's results ("Union calls for audits boycott", TES, July 6) we should reassess their value.

Test results determine a school's position in the league tables and parents' decisions as to where they will enrol their child. If a school is popular and successful at tests a number of benefits start to accrue.

More pupils mean more money in the budget and the chance to spend more on buildings, resources and teachers and the school spirals upwards. It also results in a good inspection report and may attract beacon or other status and yet more money.

These tests have inordinate power over the life of a school and it is therefore not surprising that heads and teachers work hard to achieve good results.

So what's in it for the students? We have recently learned that our children are the most tested and most stressed. Unlike A-levels, GCSEs or the 11-plus however key stage tests offer no opportunities or life chances and are the first tests that have no direct benefit for children. They narrow and skew the curriculum and are merely a government tool which enables the marketplace to be introduced into education. Did the world fall apart when a school inadvertently dumped its completed KS3 test papers in the skip?

When tests go missing or are tampered with we rely on teacher assessment. Which would you rather - a single number to sum up your child or an in-depth picture of their development and progress from a professional? Parents should believe in themselves and teachers and ask for a radical reassessment of the tests system. It is not serving children.

Gloriana Morehead 33 Brompton Walk Darlington, Co Durham

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