What, why, where, when and how

30th May 2003 at 01:00
When Jack McConnell as Education Minister introduced national priorities for education, they did not superficially seem to lend themselves to statistical measurement.

At this time, the opportunity could and should have been taken to break the link between 5-14 assessment and measures of success for individual schools. If school performance is closely linked to the performance of pupils in tests, then there will be instances where teachers feel forced to test pupils inappropriately, at the wrong time, or even misreport test findings.

However, as if gripped by a fear of letting go of numerical targets, or perhaps of sacrificing the computer capacity and the value-added gurus, work continued within the bowels of the Scottish Executive Education Department on ways to make the national priorites more measurable.

Why local authorities continued to support inappropriate use of testing to the extent they did is not clear. The Executive, for reasons which may have had everything to do with the pending election, embarked on a national debate.

The "debate" was extremely well presented and great fun for those of us who had the chance to participate in it. It may even have had some influence if, as your editorial says, the previous Executive's response to the debate is the main source of the new Executive's coalition plans, which should not really be a surprise.

If some of the debate's whats, whys, wheres, whens and hows have been synthesised into "promoting assessment methods which support learning and teaching while measuring overall attainment on broad surveys rather than relying on the national tests" (TESS, May 16), this looks hopeful.

But no doubt that someone somewhere is busy working on the small print.

Janet Law

SNP National Council

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