Standard is not making the grade

12th December 2003 at 00:00
It's a case of judging whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. Yes, half of our S2 pupils are failing to reach the required standard in writing which means, ineluctably, that the other half are succeeding. The more feverish headlines about a "generation written off" (page 3) rather fail to capture the subtlety of the 5-14 experience.

The interpretation of the latest set of 5-14 test results also depends on whether one inclines to the optimistic or the pessimistic view. Of course, it is of concern that half of S2 pupils are not reaching the minimum standards in a key area of the curriculum. On the other hand, this is now the fourth successive set of 5-14 results to show an improvement not only in writing but also in reading and maths - the effect, one hopes, of the considerable efforts being directed towards early intervention in primary.

We can now talk for the first time about more than half of S2 pupils attaining the required standard in writing; in each of the past three sessions, more than half were failing to do so.

But, as the Government admits, the required standard is not itself up to standard. So how do we know what is really going on? These latest results therefore place considerable responsibility on the current consultation about 5-14 assessment, which ends next Friday. We cannot allow another generation to pass through these stages amid uncertainty about the assessment system itself. Rome may not have been built in a day, but 11 years of 5-14 is a long wait to get it right.

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