Much ado about testing

27th May 2005 at 01:00
* Once again, the KS3 Sats in English have cast a shadow over both students and teachers, who are fast becoming disillusioned with the limited scope of the written tasks.

Why is there such reluctance to encourage 14-year-olds to demonstrate some flair and imagination in their writing?

The greatest demonstration of imagination demanded in these tasks was in the minds of those students who had to convince themselves of their ability to design "hi-tech robots". Surely we should provide a realistic context in which writing can flourish?

The demand to then write " a progress report" ensured that if they weren't already switched off by robots, they surely would be by the laborious style of writing they were asked to employ.

Furthermore, having set up a nicely contentious issue in the shorter writing task (skateboard ramps rather than robots to keep the boys happy this time!) pupils were then asked to perform the mundane task of "giving your comments".

Their responses will hardly make lively reading for anyone unfortunate enough to have been coerced into working as an examiner this summer.

Having embraced the national literacy strategy over recent years, I feel that all pupils at our school were fully prepared for these tests. But it is hard to disguise our lingering sense of disappointment over tasks that seem determined to assess pupils through mundane and formulaic writing.

In the words of one of our brightest pupils, shortly after sitting he sat the writing test, the paper was "dull and unimaginative". The irony of his statement was that these were probably the most inspired three words he'd been able to articulate all morning.

Roll on GCSE.

J Morland

Head of English

Cirencester Deer Park school

Stroud Road, Cirencester, Glos

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