Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Just say when...

The Daily Mail reports that parents will be able to choose when their children take Sats tests under proposals outlined yesterday. Exam watchdogs want to reform the system so pupils can take a test when they are ready to do so - on any day of the school year. They are currently required to take exams in English, maths and science on fixed dates when they are 11 and 14.

The move by chiefs at the National Assessment Agency would give parents a greater say in the speed their children progress through school. But head teachers warned that parents intent on "hot-housing" youngsters could try to rush them through. Under the radical plans, teachers would be able to draw test questions from a stock when they believe individual children are capable of moving up a level in their national curriculum rating.

An alternative reform would be for teachers to mark the tests themselves instead of external examiners. A sample of papers would still be marked outside schools to check national progress. This is unlikely to find favour with ministers, who have indicated that external marking must stay.

The NAA is an arm of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees national curriculum tests and advises ministers on future developments. David Gee, NAA managing director, told a London conference yesterday: "My view is that testing should be when-ready, on a daily basis." Ministers have already moved to make testing for 11 and 14-year-olds more flexible by introducing two chances a year in December and June - instead of just one - for pupils to move up a level. The system is currently being piloted in 484 schools. But Mr Gee called on the Government to go further. He said: "There's no reason why, in the longer term, we should not move towards some form of assessment when ready. But in the pilots we are having to work to a specification which is twice a year." He added: "The teachers choose when to test the pupils. It has to be when the pupils are ready, not the whole cohort being entered at one time to see how many we can get through."

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