National tests fail to impress

21st March 1997 at 00:00
Government plans for national testing in the first two years of secondary have been comprehensively dismantled by a further three councils, although ministers will be heartened about backing from Perth and Kinross for a new level F in the 5-14 programme.

Bob McKay, director of education in the SNP-controlled authority, said the move would ensure pupils who attain level E in S1 and S2 "experience a suitably differentiated and challenging curriculum", provided it linked with Standard grade in S3.

But Mr McKay also accused the Government of undermining the 5-14 programme, undervaluing primary school experience, ignoring research evidence and failing to appreciate curriculum workload in secondaries.

He cautioned: "The really important issues which require to be addressed such as the nature of the curriculum, learning and teaching and planning learning in S1S2 have been overlooked in favour of a crude mechanism to simply measure attainment."

Independent-controlled Dumfries and Galloway is equally scathing, labelling testing as a "knee-jerk" reaction which would ensure Scottish pupils are the most externally tested in Europe. The superimposing of testing on the 5-14 curriculum would do nothing to tackle the fragmented curricular experience in the early years of secondary, the overpacked curriculum, the flow of information across sectors and how secondaries build on the skills and knowledge developed in primaries.

The vast majority of schools were "long removed" from the fresh start approach in S1, according to a paper presented to last week's education committee.

In Labour-controlled Stirling, Margaret Doran, head of school services, told the children's committee this week that the suggestion that tests should cover two levels of attainment was "beyond the bounds of credibility". Ms Doran says testing of children with special needs is "abhorrent".

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