Pupils worth more than meaningless levels

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

In your report on the S1-2 curriculum (March 20), Ian Fraser, corporate director of education and social care in Inverclyde, suggests subject choices could be made as early as primary school. He claims that, in P7, youngsters know if they are musical wastelands or want to develop their interest in art. I couldn't disagree more.

Time and again I have seen pupils develop an interest in, and aptitude for, subjects like music and art, because of the opportunities afforded them at secondary. If we believe in treating young people as individuals, we must acknowledge that they develop at different rates, based on different experiences.

Mr Fraser, who clearly disapproves of a general curriculum from S1-3, is quoted as saying maths and language appear to suffer in early secondary. He is making a dangerous assumption here that pupils in S1 and 2 are performing less well in English and maths than in P6 or 7. If he is basing this on 5-14 test results, could the apparent discrepancy be because some pupils are assessed at level D or E in early secondary who, according to those results, had already achieved level E or even F at primary?

I often hear my secondary colleagues express concerns that some pupils who have already achieved level D or E in primary tests are not actually working at that level at all. This is not to suggest that those primary results are inaccurate. A 5-14 test is a snapshot of how an individual pupil has performed in a particular test on a given day. It is also possible that pressure on teachers to meet pupil attainment targets could result in them teaching to the test.

Until we take the bull by the horns and scrap such unhelpful testing in favour of a more sophisticated model of assessing progress and achievement over a period of time, this issue will never be properly addressed. So, let's stop categorising pupils in terms of meaningless levels and start saying what they have actually achieved.

Adrian J Finnerty, principal teacher of learning and teaching (creative arts), Balfron High, EdD student, University of Strathclyde.

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