Doubting Thomases who query the purpose of national curriculum tests may have been answered by new research. A study, based on a questionnaire sent to 415 schools in England last year and a previous survey of 229 of the same schools in 1998, claims that 95 per cent of schools use test results for curriculum planning and management.
Their use in drawing up development plans was also widespread - a practice in almost nine out of 10 schools surveyed. Some 20 per cent of the schools said they made major use of the results for putting pupils into sets, while another two-thirds said they made some use of results for this purpose. Only five per cent said they made major use of the results for streaming, and 80 per cent said they did not use them for streaming at all.
Schools made greater use of maths and English results than those for science. Target setting for classes, groups and individuals, was frequently mentioned as an additional purpose.
The majority of rspondents reported that some analysis of the test results is provided by education authorities, such as comparisons of schools with similar intakes and the differences between girls and boys.
The researchers conclude that their study provides: "a picture of a highly effective response to a clear policy steer from central government. Information from tests is harnessed at all levels to improve performance." They warn, however, that: "(the test results) are only a snapshot of a child's performance on one day. Attention to test results could go beyond an optimum level, with the result that the curriculum becomes too focused upon test preparation, to the detriment of pupils and staff."
A Survey of the Use of National Curriculum Test Results in the Management and Planning of the Curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2, by John Ashby and Marian Sainsbury, is published by the National Foundation for Educational Research. Read it at: www.nfer.ac.uksummaryaic.htm