ACROSS the country this week 14-year-olds sat their key stage 3 exams -amid arguments about the future of national tests.
On one side of the controversy officials at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority say the existing key stage tests had been so successful, they were considering drawing up optional assessments for pupils aged 12 and 13. National exams would then be available in almost every school year.
Meanwhile, John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, was demanding the scrapping of the key stage 3 test regime.
At Hurlingham and Chelsea comprehensive school, in Fulham, south London, 165 pupils are going through the testing mill.
Headteacher Michael Murphy reported almost 100 per cent attendance, more than for any other examination at the school.
Vanessa Brown, head of English at the school said she had been suspicious of the tests when they were first introduced. "They have improved vastly: the way they look, the way they are presented. The 1999 tests are less narrow than they used to be, more into creative thinking and less into question and answers.
"I think they give the pupils valuable exam practice. Part of passing GCSE is being able to sit an exam. This takes away some of the mystery of exams."
Steve Childs, head of science and maths, said he supported the tests but worried about the way they were sometimes used. "In many schools they are still seen as an end in themselves. There is an awful lot of pressure to get pupils to succeed at KS 3. A lot of pupils are being taught stuff they are not really ready for."
Paul McKeown, head of Year 9 and the organiser of the KS3 tests, said: "You have to look at the tests from a pupil's perspective. They learn from it enormously. It acts as a spring board for their GCSE years. I think the pupils are really up for it here. They have been working for this for the three years they have been here."
Deputy head Sion Humphreys, said: "I think one of the main benefits I see is how the tests tie in with our own assessment systems. It is a useful indicator of their accuracy.
"I do have some concerns at looking at the value-added between KS2 and KS3. What a primary teacher would regard as level 4 at KS 2, would probably be different from how a secondary teacher would view it."