Letters extra: Tests should not be avoided

9th May 2003 at 01:00

I was downhearted to read of the distress caused to pupils throughout the country by taking the SATs tests (25 April). Out own school was involved, but I hope we were using them as originally envisaged - simply to give an indication of what a child can do on a certain day. This infomation is useful in tracking a pupil's performamce over time and can help inform a parent of a child's achievements, but only on the day of the test.

We do not "teach to test" and our curriculum remains broad and interesting to the children and their teachers. However, my governors do not create pressure to "endlessly improve" and we are not put in a league table by the government. This, I feel, is what creates the pressure you reported.

I am puzzled, however, by a comment that children are being "tested to destruction". Are children not all the time writing stories, completing maths questions and trying to spell well? They can only do what they able to do and this should be accepted. Tests should not be avoided and should be a regular part of the whole system, but the results should help the teacher and not penalise the child.

TR Owen
Headmaster, Berkhampstead School, Cheltenham

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