Test results 'are fiddled'

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
David Henderson reports from the SSTA conference in Aviemore and the NASUWT conference in Seamill

HEADTEACHERS and class teachers are fiddling 5-14 test results because of pressures to look good in performance tables, several delegates last week told the Scottish conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in Seamill.

One primary teacher said: "I know of one school where the headteacher submitted the results prior to the children doing the tests."

Others claimed it was regular practice for teachers to advise pupils on their way round the class to have another look at particular questions.

Hazel Ralston, a Glasgow primary teacher, summed up the feelings: "The results of most pupils are utterly meaningless. You have got a level D, so what?"

Ministers in the new Scottish Executive are already keen to make more time for learning in primary and are committed to scrapping current 5-14 testing, replacing it with more rigorous tests based around the Assessment of Achievement Programme.

The NASUWT continues to press for external testing and marking and an end to target-setting in primaries.

Amanda Wright, a P7 teacher in South Lanarkshire, said that testing absorbed vast amounts of her time because she taught pupils ranging from levels A to E. "I'm going to spend the whole year national testing," she said. Some pupils were invariably off school and had to be retested.

Ms Wright said teachers had to put their pupils through revision because they had forgotten so much by the time of the test later in the year. Then she needed extra time to administer the tests. "Children can pass the tests but have not learnt the skills and can't do them out of context. What we should be going for is good quality learning and teaching," she said.

Rhona Mackenzie, South Lanarkshire, said that tests were "an absolute waste of time". The system was "flawed and open to abuse by everyone who wants to look good". Schools were under enormous pressures.

"When you look at the results in some of the leafy suburbs, it's quite ridiculous - 99 per cent pass rates at level C in reading in P5. It's an absolute nonsense," she said.

John Kelly, an East Dunbartonshire secondary depute head, said: "5-14 was education and national testing was garbage. Somehow the two have conflated."

In his experience, attainment levels in English demanded by inspectors by the end of S2 were unre-alistically high.

DROWNED BY INITIATIVES

You don't need a survey to find out about stress in primaries - just look at the number of initiatives, Elizabeth Hotchkin, an Inverclyde teacher, said. "You feel as if you are drowning under them."

Eight significant changes had placed heavy demands on staff at her school:

* New ways of organising and recording structured play.

* A revised maths syllabus with different assessment and recording methods.

* A new science scheme with its assessment and recording.

* A new language scheme.

* A new religious education syllabus was on the way.

* A new personal and social development package.

* A new approach to physical education coming up.

* A new reporting format was imminent.

"These are all things you have to get your head around," Mrs Hotchkin said.

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