Wallace and Gromit's 'first big test'

10th January 1997 at 00:00
Learning from the Jesuits, the Sunday Times Scotland has started talking to five to seven-year-olds and presumably hopes to have them as readers for life. Nothing as basic as comic-cuts. Primary children have to sit tests and what better than the Sunday Times to prepare them for the first of life's challenges?

"Examplan", which runs in the newspaper for six weeks, tells 5-14 level A candidates: "You should be getting quite good at writing as you near the age of seven. You will take your first big test in writing sometime between the end of your first year at school and your third year."

Children and their parents are told to practise writing a short thank-you letter, an account of something they have done, or a short story. Capitals and full stops should be used and you should "write so that other people can read what you have done" (apposite advice for journalists, too).

Despite the Sunday Times's perennial concerns about school standards and underachievement, "Examplan" is anxious not to pile on the stress. "You should find the test easy, as your teachers will not ask you to do it until they think you can." Parents are advised: "Do not dwell on tests more than any other aspect of school life."

Standard grade and 5-14 level D also feature, and the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum and the Scottish Examination Board have been involved in producing the booklets, as have the animated characters Wallace and Gromit, who invented an "Examplan machine".

No doubt it was too much to expect even clever Wallace and Gromit to distinguish between preparing for exams like Standard grade and realising that national tests are meant only as measures of classroom progress, not as "your first big test".

The booklets started last Sunday with English and proceed through the subjects culminating with modern studies and, curiously, "private schools entrance". What final lesson can "Examplan" be drawing?

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