Wales to ditch key stage tests

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Inquiry says teacher assessment should be used to measure progress, report Helen Ward and Karen Thornton

Wales today takes another step towards abandoning national tests for 11 and 14-year-olds with the publication of the Daugherty report.

As English and Welsh 11-year-olds knuckled down to a week of tests, the report recommended that teacher assessment replace tests at key stages 2 and 3. Ten-year-olds would take new tests in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving to check their progress.

But it could be three years before the changes are in place. The final report of the testing inquiry headed by Richard Daugherty, dean of the arts faculty at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, says time is needed to prepare pupils and teachers.

The Welsh Assembly would need to change the law to introduce new assessment arrangements. Wales dropped formal testing of seven-year-olds in 2001.

Earlier this year, in England, the National Union of Teachers balloted members on a boycott of this year's tests. It failed to secure enough votes for action, but opposition to testing in primaries remains widespread.

Heads in England say the problem is not the tests for 11-year-olds, but league tables. David Fann, head of Sherwood primary, Preston, said: "League tables vilify teachers working in very difficult circumstances."

Tough targets set for this year's tests - likely to be the last before a general election - have come under increasing criticism as 11-year-olds'

results stalled.

The Government has tried to defuse trouble by shifting its hope that 85 per cent of children will reach the expected level 4 in English and maths back to 2006. Last year 75 per cent of 11-year-olds reached this level in English and 73 per cent did so in maths.

Reaction to this year's papers was mixed. The longer writing paper asked children to write a presentation for assembly about a 7 am start to the school day.

Jackie Breasley, head of Lawrence primary, Liverpool, said: "I think English was very fair. Our Year 6 children have been involved in a project where they do presentations, so it was not unlike what they already do."

Angeles Walford, head of the Priory Church of England primary, in Wimbledon, south London, said: "I think a lot of children bordering on level 3 and 4 will have found it difficult. There is also the style - can you write it in bullet points?"

Others coped well. One teacher on The TES website said: "A boy in my class wrote about how the Government is making life hard for kids. Not only by the pressure of Sats, but now encouraging children to go to school early."

The shorter of two writing tasks on Tuesday asked children to write a witness report of a car accident. Ken Holmes, of Dorrington primary, Birmingham, where three children had a friend killed in a car accident the previous weekend. has complained to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's National Assessment Agency.

He said the test was "inappropriate", and he considered not giving it to the children.

He said: "When these children opened the booklet and saw the scenario they were shocked, and I believe their performance in the test has been affected, not by their ability, but by the use of what I consider to be adult content."

The question asked pupils to imagine they were walking home from school when they saw a driver swerve to avoid a fox. The car went into a tree but neither driver nor fox was hurt. An illustration showed the driver standing by the car and the fox running away.

A spokeswoman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said: "When testing 650,000 pupils there will inevitably be a few cases where a recent experience may make the test subject matter more sensitive."

The reading paper, taken on Wednesday, included a question about a website on the paralympics, which was topical given the Olympic games this summer.

The two science papers, taken on Monday, were again criticised for the amount of reading involved.

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