Heads attack new tests for pupils aged 9 to 13

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Headteachers launched a stinging attack yesterday on the Government's focus on examinations over the introduction of "world-class tests".

Headteachers launched a stinging attack yesterday on the Government's focus on examinations over the introduction of "world-class tests".

From today parents will be able to discover how their offspring's intelligence compares with students around the globe as the Government's world-class tests are published on the internet.

The tests for children aged 9 and 13 in mathematics and problem solving aim to show teachers, parents and the Government how our most able pupils match up to the brightest and best in the rest of the world. They will help schools to identify the top 10 per cent of students and recognise their achievements.

However John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the tests were just yet another extra pressure on children. "Bright children are already placed under sufficient stress in our exam system and, like A* grades at GCSE, these tests will put unnecessary stress on pupils," he said.

"Parents will put pressure on schools for their children to sit them even if they may be inappropriate. Bright children do very well in this country. If there are problems, they are with children of lower ability."

Next spring, the tests are to be pioneered in America and later in other countries so that they can be assessed against the performance of pupils overseas.

International studies have shown that Britain lags far behind countries such as Singapore and Switzerland in maths.

Paper-based questions and computerised, interactive puzzles, which involve graphics showing sunflowers growing and trains moving round tracks, will be tried out until the voluntary tests go live next November.

Parents and teachers are being asked to spot any gifted children and get them to try out the questions.

Officials at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, who have developed the tests, say that children will do well if:

* They think quickly - and accurately;

* produce creative solutions;

* work systematically;

* cope well with unfamiliar problems;

* are determined, diligent and good at uncovering patterns.

Martin Ripley, the authority's principal manager of new projects, said: "These are not subject knowledge-based tests. And they are not tests you would do well at just because you are clever. The tests for nine-year-olds assume that you have been at a primary school receiving a diet similar to that of the national curriculum."

The questions, which have been devised with the help of three agencies at the universities of Nottingham, Durham and Leeds, use everyday situations; for example, 13-year-olds are set a problem about how to make a desk.

Pupils who do well may be selected for masterclasses or summer schools but Mr Ripley said most schools would already have identified gifted pupils and would be catering for them.

The final tests will involve four one-hour papers, two in maths and two in problem-solving. Schools will be able to enter pupils but parents will also be able to register children independently if their teachers are unwilling to do so. Children younger than nine may take the tests if parents and teachers think they are ready.

Officials have not yet decided how the tests will be marked, whether pupils will get credit for speed and whether their results will be classified into pass, credit and distinction.

Pupils who complete the computerised sample tests will be asked to say what they think of them. The questions can be accessed at www.qca.org.uk/world-class-tests.