Primary 7 testing too little, too late

16th January 2009 at 00:00

The proposals approved by Parliament last week to test P7 pupils in literacy and numeracy need to be re-thought. What is the point of testing children at the end of primary school? The argument put forward was that the Government's plan to test in the third or fourth year of secondary school was too little, too late. This argument can equally be applied to testing in P7.

An "exam" at this stage would offer nothing other than a baseline for secondary schools or, at worst, an opportunity for the secondary sector to point the finger of blame at primary schools, should pupils not subsequently achieve a clutch of Highers. It would do nothing to address literacy and numeracy problems, as these are best tackled as early in schooling as possible.

AHDS agrees that assessment is important. It should, and does, form part of a teacher's toolkit in determining pupil performance and designing the next steps to help each pupil make progress. Internal formative assessment should take place at all stages of primary and secondary school.

Yes, examinations are an important part of the education system - the results are products which help employers and furtherhigher education institutions understand more about the young people in front of them. However, other forms of assessment in the earlier stages of education are tools rather than products and should be treated as such.

Furthermore, to introduce an assessment such as was proposed by the Conservatives would highlight the transition from primary to secondary - which runs contrary to current wisdom suggesting that transitions should be as smooth as possible to maintain pace and momentum of learning.

It was good to hear the Education Secretary clarify that assessment would be internal and that the Government had no intention to focus on P7.

Greg Dempster, general secretary, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland.

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