Wales is to review national curriculum tests in schools for 11 and 14-year-olds in a move that will increase pressure on ministers in England to scrap them. The review could lead to the tests being abandoned altogether in favour of internal assessment by teachers - as demanded by Britain's biggest teachers' union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT).
Jane Davidson, Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning in the Welsh Assembly, has indicated that the review will be a top priority in the assembly's second term. Wales's decision to abandon tests for seven-year-olds this year was seized upon by teachers' leaders in England, who called to have them scrapped over the border.
Last week Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, announced a softening of the Government's line on the tests for seven-year-olds, saying that more weight would be given to teachers' assessments. But he was adamant that the tests for pupils at seven, 11 and 14 were "here to stay".
Ms Davidson said she feared that too many schools in Wales were "teaching to the test", so that pupils were failing to get a broad and balanced curriculum - a view shared by Welsh school inspectors.
She said she was anxious about a dip in academic performance by the time youngsters reached the age of 14. "What we want to do is find the best method of assessing young people so we can ensure that we build on their ability to achieve between the ages of 11 and 14," she said.
The move was welcomed by the NUT, which decided at its annual conference last month to ballot on a boycott of tests for seven-year-olds in England and those for 11 and 14-year-olds in England and Wales. John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, said: "There are many reasons why the Government in England should learn from what is happening in Wales.
"The broad-minded approach towards testing and concern over its impact on teaching should be the cornerstone of how the Government tackles testing - instead of the closed mind it has adopted."
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