Legacy of testing

1st June 2007 at 01:00
Over the past 150-odd years, educators have experienced the three Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic), the three As (age, aptitude and ability) and, more recently, the three Es "education, education, education" (Tony Blair). But has anything changed or, more importantly, improved?

Some examples suggest the present situation is not so different from that in the mid-19th century. A friend reports that pupils in her son's class were told by their teacher to pay attention to her hand signals in order to make the correct responses in a French GCSE oral exam. Another reports that her daughter's class were taught only two out of six topics in sociology AS level to ensure they "knew" the material in sufficient depth to achieve high grades. My niece complains that she has spent much of the summer term engaged in key stage 2 Sats practice and is bored with the content and anxious about outcomes.

These practices raise serious questions. What is Mr Blair's legacy? Preparing pupils for a bright future or a return to the practices of the past? Providing a broad curriculum or a series of narrow choices (a reminder of the three Rs)? Assessing pupils as part of their learning, or teaching them to "jump through hoops", or cheat (reminiscent of the 19th-century "payment by results" system)? Or forcing pupils to spend summer sitting in rows practising test papers (back to the days of the 11-plus)?

The Government must ask itself serious questions. In the drive towards inclusion, does every child really matter or does learning to play the system in the drive for results matter more?

Elizabeth Sach Local authority advisory teacher, Codicote, Herts

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