The Government's determination to ensure schools test pupils regularly is likely to earn parents' approval, according to new research carried out at Oxford Brookes university.
Parents are now more in favour of testing at 7, 11 and 14 than they were seven years ago. However, most are either indifferent or opposed to the Government's much-vaunted policy of encouraging schools to become grant-maintained, and a significant minority ignore exam league tables.
The research suggests that Gillian Shephard, the Education Secretary, may be astute in concentrating extra resources into making sure national tests for 11-year-olds go ahead this year.
More than 80 per cent of the parents interviewed wanted tests at the top end of the primary school, compared with 75 per cent in 1987. Lower down the school, tests for seven-year-olds are also more popular; only 48 per cent of parents were in favour in 1987, compared with 53 per cent in 1994. Schools have been running the tests for the last four years.
The research suggests schools - including those with poor results - may not have much to fear from league tables. While most parents said they found such information valuable, only a quarter said tables influenced their choice of secondary school.
The Government's expensive promotion of tables appears to have passed by the 40 per cent of parents who said they did not look at them.
The researchers found that in only 2 per cent of cases parents admitted to seriously considering changing secondary schools because of league table results.
In the main, parents are not sold on the grant-maintained option. The proportion of parents opposed to opting out has gone up from 33 per cent in 1987 to 38 per cent. Another 30 per cent said they had no opinion on the issue, down from 35 per cent in 1987.
The researchers conclude that parents do want easier access to hard information on their children's achievement, and want to be able to talk more easily to teachers about their children's progress.