Let's give our pupils some real satisfaction

16th May 2003 at 01:00
As national tests week draws to a close, Laurie Rosenberg suggests that the community could provide a better assessment of learning progress

It is lamentable that amid all the talk about transformational leadership and collaborative learning, the cadence of the school year is driven less by children's educational needs than by the demands of Sats.

The headlong drive to meet a set of monochromatic targets goes counter to what the real spirit and intent of raising achievement ought to be.

Of course there is a need to ensure a future generation of literate, numerate and enquiring citizens, but is testing the only way to guarantee this? Children will need imagination, creativity and curiosity in order to find solutions to the problems of the future. They need to know how to use resources - their own and in collaboration with teachers, peers and the virtual world of e-learning.

They should be able to use literacy, numeracy and scientific enquiry in a rigorous, yet free-flowing way, underpinned by secure values. Sats deny children the opportunity of collaborating with others to succeed.

They reinforce the privacy of success, and the coveting of knowledge, experience and skills, but more damaging is the blow to a child and a school's self-esteem when this measure of attainment becomes an adversarial tool for simplistic comparisons.

How are parents to judge how well a school provides a broad and balanced education for children? The answer is in our hands. It is our responsibility to provide a reliable means of describing a school's success in producing tomorrow's citizens.

Perhaps schools could be graded on a community satisfaction index (CSI) with self-evaluation, and external rating on:

* how well children are cared for and nurtured;

* how the school provides for inclusivity - special educational needs and gifted or talented;

* the quality of the relationships with parents and carers;

* the quality of education in the key areas of numeracy, literacy and scientific enquiry;

* the quality of teaching as evidenced by self-evaluation and the Office for Standards in EducationLEA;

* opportunities for lifelong and community learning;

* a clear moral purpose in the school;

* and tangible evidence of intellectual, emotional and physical creativity.

The CSI rating would be supported by objective testing and pupil profiling. Children would be assessed on their performance while working on projects that encompass key skills.

Schools should still do testing - but along the lines of the cognitive ability tests devised by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

The foundation stage profile shows it is possible to observe children, assess their progress and synthesise the information into an objective, 3D picture of how a child is succeeding, and should be extended throughout the primary phase.

Indeed, it could be extended into a more interactive profile, engaging both the child and the home, with negotiated targets backed by a portfolio of work stored electronically, becoming part of a child's educational narrative - something that will grow with them into the future.

Children need to be more aware of their need to maintain sustainable progress. Literacy hours should become literacy for life, with reading records maintained by children, written accounts using various genres recorded on to CD-Rom, and collaborative endeavours shared and celebrated.

Projects should use all of the numeracy skills, with scientific enquiry.

Of course, we will provide children with the skills for sharing knowledge and expertise, confidence and competence.

Tomorrow's world is today's responsibility, and it seems bizarre that a child's primary educational experience is measured and assessed in just five hours of tests, over five days.

Laurie Rosenberg is head of Simon Marks primary school, north London

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