It shouldn't happen here;Leading Article;Opinion

14th May 1999 at 01:00
Like earthquakes, organised cases of exam-cheating are supposed to happen only in far-off, third-world countries. We may expect children to hide a book up their jumper or scribble key words on their sweaty palms, but we are still a little taken aback when local education advisers become embroiled in such a murky business.

The recent shenanigans in south London (page 4) have an air of farce. But they highlight a serious point. Key stage 2 testing is now a high-stakes exercise.

Primary schools' reputations - and those of local education authorities increasingly depend on performance tables. With the Government setting demanding targets, some heads, teachers, and even LEA officers, become convinced that their careers hinge on these scores.

The irony, of course, is that key stage 2 test results seem to be of little or no interest to secondary schools. We also know that although primary schools' "rankings" are taken very seriously, they can be affected by pupil absence, children changing schools, the different ability levels of year groups, and perhaps even the pollen count.

A better sense of perspective is badly needed.

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