Headteachers of the country's leading independent schools have agreed to introduce a "baseline" test for 11 and 13-year-olds to discover what value has been added to a child's education during their time at a school.
Members of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference decided to accept the tests at their annual meeting in Glasgow last week, but they will not be compulsory.
The tests have been developed by Durham University's curriculum, evaluation and management centre on the lines of the well established YELLIS (Year 11 information system) and ALIS (A level information system) that track pupils' progress, attitudes and aspirations and provide schools with valuable management information.
The new tests will be known as MYIS (middle years information system).
Carol Fitz-Gibbon, director of the centre, stressed that it was not an entry exam. The 45-minute test, with an optional 40-minute second paper which could be taken later, would provide teachers with a profile of pupils and predict their achievements at key stage 3 and GCSE.
"It's important to get a broad range of information which doesn't take a lot of time or cost a fortune, and it has got to be efficient," she said, adding that the tests would provide confidential information for schools.
John Moore, head of The King's School, Worcester, who chairs the HMC's academic policy committee, said the test would lead to value-added judgments "rather than the raw data of league tables which we all hate" in 2000 if schools began using them next September.
The Girls' Schools' Association is likely to consider adopting the system at its annual conference in Brighton next month and the Secondary Heads Association has also shown an interest.