Science set fora testing debut

21st September 2001 at 01:00
THERE will be no radical overhaul of national testing in primary and the first two years of secondary, other than to extend the scope to science and ensure better feedback for parents. Unions, however, may oppose the inclusion of science.

Jack McConnell, Education Minister, was yesterday (Thursday) set to announce a fresh consultation on plans for tidying up 5-14 assessment and slimming down post-16 assessment. He confirmed that Assessment of Achievement Programme tests in English, mathematics and science are to merge with the current bank of 5-14 test materials available to teachers.

This will allow more valid national monitoring of standards across the country but in no sense emulate the stricter testing regime south of the border. Evolution rather than revolution is the spin.

The move, first forecast in The TES Scotland, is unlikely to produce the strong reactions to national testing of a decade ago now that many authorities quietly deploy standardised national tests in English and maths to provide more accurate information for teachers, particularly at the transition from primary to secondary. Teachers have offered little resistance.

The favoured AAP tests are presently externally marked and only cover a 5 per cent sample of schools every three years. But they provide a more comprehensive picture of the subject in greater depth. It is unclear how far external marking will extend.

Such issues are likely to surface in an action group Mr McConnell is to set up to develop the 5-14 reforms. An extension to science, covered by AAP tests but not by the present confirmatory national tests, is another sensitive area. New materials will be needed if teachers agree to tests in a notoriously difficult area in primary.

Mr McConnell is also keen to simplify reporting to parents and bring together initiatives such as personal learning plans and progress files.

On a second front, Mr McConnell launched the consultation on simplifying Higher Still courses and assessment, trailed in recent weeks by the national qualifications task group. It comes a week ahead of the crucial meeting of the Educational Institute of Scotland executive council, which is considering a boycott of internal assessment.

Mr McConnell wants burdens on teachers reduced but also to buy time to allow subject-by-subject reforms to settle in. Arguments around the twin options for cutting assessment may have to wait.

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