It's time we found a new song to sing

20th March 2009 at 00:00

Ronnie Summers adds nothing new to the promotion of literacy and numeracy in Scottish schools with calls for more narrow testing in P7 and S3-4 (TESS, February 20).

Why are P7 and S3-4 deemed to be key stages in the development of literacy and numeracy? There is clearly evidence to suggest that the very early stages of education play a vital role in preparing for formal learning and that, equally, the very early stages of formal learning in literacy and numeracy skills are key to future development.

But it is also quite obvious, given the course of individual development and the vagaries of individual upbringing, that all stages are important in the development of these key skills.

His call for "robust" data at these stages is more to do with conforming to the organisational and administrative requirements of the status quo than any serious attempt to address the importance of promoting literacy and numeracy across the curriculum.

In order to be both effective and accountable, we need proper and effective assessment procedures. Mr Summers rightly concedes that teachers' professional judgment is a critical part of that process. High-quality formative and summative assessment strategies can be an integral part of learning and teaching, in a way which does not distort or undermine as "testing" clearly does.

There is nothing to suggest that national testing was robust, reliable or valid, and nothing to suggest that literacynumeracy tests at "key stages" will be either.

Yes, let us find ways of measuring our investment, but let's not pretend that it has anything to do with the promotion of sound learning. In the new curriculum, based on personalisation, breadth and choice, the cry for more "testing" has absolutely no place or relevance.

Mr Summers sings "Non, je ne regrette rien". Time we found a new song to sing.

Hugh Donnelly, teacher, Hillpark Secondary, Glasgow.

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