The quality of independent research under the Assessment of Achievement Programme is in jeopardy following the decision to centralise its operation in the Scottish Office. That is the view of three university teams that have undertaken the triennial research into performance in English, mathematics and science in the fourth and seventh years of primary school and the second year of secondary.
In an article in today's TES Scotland (page 22), Tom Bryce, a member of the Strathclyde University team monitoring science performance, writes: "Goodbye AAP, goodbye good practice. The international embarrassment of this will be hard to take."
Professor Bryce and his colleagues fear that the distinction between independent national monitoring and the Government's national testing programme will be blurred. Professor Bryce questions whether "this is simply the start of a rundown which will make it more likely that national testing will replace AAP (as per south of the border)".
The Scottish Office intends to appoint a national co-ordinator for all three subjects in the AAP study. Subject expertise would be bought in for limited periods. Advertisements have been placed for two mathematics experts who would spend 114 days preparing and conducting the fifth survey in the subject next year.
At a meeting in June the current research teams objected to the plan put forward by the Research and Intelligence Unit of the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department. But their opposition has gone unheeded.
Professor Bryce argues that the savings envisaged by the Scottish Office will amount to little if anything. He says that the current annual cost to the Government of about Pounds 100,000 "seems good value for money" by international standards. He also points to the high standing of the AAP abroad.
Under the "bureaucratic centralisation" about to take place, the national co-ordinator will not be allowed to own the programme in the way that the individual projects have been owned, Professor Bryce states.