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Testing times

Astrid Ritchie (TESS, last week) accuses the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, along with the Educational Institute of Scotland, of being "depressingly protectionist and predictable" in its response to the Education Minister's call for compulsory testing in the first two years of secondary school. "Puzzled" would be a more accurate description of our position.

When the minister made his macho announcement to the party faithful at the Conservative conference in Aberdeen, it was not clear what he meant. Was he calling for the implementation of some Scottish version of the English national tests which are taken by pupils at seven, 11 and 14?

I checked with the Scottish Office and was informed that the minister was talking about 5-14 testing. I accepted that the tests would not be compulsory for all children in secondary 1 and secondary 2 because some would have finished all the levels of the 5-14 programme and taken the associated tests while still in primary school. It was also accepted that using the first six months of a session as evidence of testing probably understated the position as teachers are more likely to test in the latter part of the year.

It was confirmed that parents would continue to have the same rights as they have at present to withdraw their children from the tests and acknowledged that in many cases there was no testing in secondary schools because of legitimate industrial action on the part of the teachers.

In the end, we were left with the proposal that the minister was going to make it compulsory for education authorities to run the necessary tests related to the 5-14 programme in the secondary schools. As this is the current position, then I am extremely confused. The minister has no need of legislation. The authorities are signed up to the tests by virtue of agreeing to the guidelines and, if the minister wants to enforce them by law, then all he needs to do is to lay regulations before Parliament.

For Astrid Ritchie to suggest that SPTC is opposed to the 5-14 tests which are embedded in the curriculum is absolute nonsense. What we are totally opposed to is ministers making high profile political announcements about tests which show little grasp of reality.

Judith Gillespie Convener

Scottish Parent Teacher Council

Kirk Cramond

Cramond Glebe Road

Edinburgh

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