People drive learning, tests hold it back

10th January 2014 at 00:00

George Bethell asks ("The very definition of delusion", 3 January) if the effective learning criteria in my earlier letter ("Quality can be tested? Wrong answer", 2027 December) are opinion- or evidence-based. I conducted 20,000 lessons in 25 years in the classroom and have observed some 4,000 since. Is Mr Bethell not aware of Professor Maurice Galton's long years observing what happened in classrooms, his final summary reflecting that as children pass through school their increasingly test-driven experience is almost the opposite of what effective learning requires? Schools inspectorate for England Ofsted's early inspection frameworks reflected the spirit of the factors I cited. And TES has explored Professor John Hattie's league table of factors for effective learning gleaned from 15 years of national and international studies. The human factors driving my criteria were top while structural factors such as tests, buildings, systems and strategies rated lower.

Testing affords little scope for the full range of individual personalities, temperaments and learning styles. Subject testing as a one-off exercise purports to make clinical judgements of children's performance whatever their health or mood that day. It tests only what can be tested, is vulnerable to well-documented frailties and distorts everyday practice. We have betrayed generations of young people as well as taxpayers. More reliable accountability - as used in the real world - and more long-term integrated insights into performance are shunned.

Mervyn Benford, Shutford, Oxfordshire.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today