New school tests mark death of Baker system

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Tests at 11 and 14 in English, maths, science

Tests only in maths and English at 7

Length of tests next year to be cut by half

Fewer compulsory subjects from 14 to 16

Under-7s to focus on reading and spelling

Less of each subject prescribed by law

NEW SCHOOL league tables, comparing the ability of pupils at five with test results at 11, are being planned by the Government as part of a radical rethink of its curriculum and testing policies.

The tables, which will show the results of teacher assessment as well as national test marks, are being considered in response to Sir Ron Dearing's report on the curriculum and testing which was published yesterday.

Lady Blatch, Minister of State for Education, accepted Sir Ron's proposals for streamlining the curriculum and testing, which spell the end of the system conceived five years ago by Kenneth Baker, the former Secretary of State for Education.

She said on BBC Radio 4's The World at One: 'The early architects of the system built into it too much bureaucracy and too much convolution and that has substantially been addressed by Sir Ron.'

The Government hopes the report will end teachers' protests about an overloaded curriculum and complicated testing which led to a test boycott by three unions this summer. None of the unions involved in the boycott agreed to call off its action immediately.

Ministers are refusing to abandon the principle of league tables although they have dropped plans for school-by-school league tables of seven and 14- year-olds' national test results. Instead, they are looking at ways of measuring pupils' ability when they first enter school, perhaps by a verbal reasoning test. Primary schools' performance could then be measured by comparing pupils' performance at five with their test results at 11; in the case of secondary schools the results at 11 would be compared with GCSE results.

The Government has agreed to Sir Ron's proposal that research should be carried out on league tables that measure pupils' progress in response to critics who say the present tables are unfair because they do not allow for a school's intake. Sir Ron, who had to steer a middle course between the Government and teachers, also argues that teacher assessment should be given equal status with national test results.

Ministers are determined to reject demands from teachers that league tables should take pupils' social background into account. They accept some teachers' leaders will remain opposed to the proposals but hope Sir Ron will win over the majority.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, warmly welcomed the report for its 'banning of bureaucracy and restoration of professionalism' but said the boycott would be lifted only when the effect of Sir Ron's proposals was clear in the classroom.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said it would need evidence of the Government's intentions but would re-ballot members on a boycott next term. And Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: 'Slimming down the tests won't make them educationally worthwhile.'

The Government is thought to favour a review of all 10 national curriculum subjects together so that the new curriculum would be in place by September 1995. Sir Ron's final report is due in December.

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