Pupils face new mental maths tests

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN a million children across Britain will face tough national tests of their mental arithmetic for the first time next week. New grammar tests for 14- year-olds are also being piloted in a move which will please traditionalists.

The 20 minute maths tests, to be sat by all 11- and 14-year-olds on Tuesday, will be the first national assessment of children's ability to deal with numbers without the aid of pencil and paper. The tests, which were piloted last year, give children five, 10, or 15 seconds to answer each question on a tape sent to all schools.

New English tests for 14- year-olds, being sent to a sample of schools, will separate reading and writing to place more emphasis on traditional grammar.

Dr Nick Tate, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which administers the tests, also announced a crackdown on exam fraud after a handful of schools were found to have broken the rules on testing last year.

This year schools will be subject to spot checks to ensure the exams are being properly administered. Officials will check around 2,000 schools, but officials insisted that only a handful of complaints had been received.

Dr Tate said: "There was very little evidence of abuse last year. But in so far as there were some cases, this undermines the credibility of tests and it was important to take this decisive action."

Most allegations came from other schools which suspected their neighbours of malpractice. But out of 20,000 schools only 30 reached the stage of a formal complaint to the QCA. Of those, 10 cases of malpractice were substantiated.

About 1.8 million pupils will be taking national tests for seven, 11 and 14-year-olds over the next two weeks. Seven-year- olds will sit tests in maths and English, while 11- and 14-year-olds will be tested in maths, English and science. Teachers will also have to assess pupils in other subjects, like foreign languages, history and geography.

The new grammar tests were launched after an analysis of last year's English results found fundamental problems with spelling, grammar and punctuation. The new writing tests give children a series of tasks, such as writing a letter or writing a third person report of spoken English, designed to test whether youngsters can use reported speech, deal with tenses, punctuate correctly or use the third person.

Reading tests will test comprehension, as well as requiring children to comment on sentence structure.

Voluntary tests for eight, nine and 10 year olds have also been sent to schools. Officials said around 90 per cent of schools were expected to take them up.

Results from a sample of 10,000 test results will be used to create a survey of national standards. Officials said there were no plans to make the voluntary tests compulsory.

TEN to PUZZLE over

These are the sort of questions 14-year-olds will have to answer. (Times in brackets show how long pupils re given to answer)

A television programme starts at ten minutes to seven. It lasts 25 minutes. At what time does the programme finish? (10 seconds)

Subtract 100 from 6,003 (10 seconds)

What is one quarter of 32? (10 seconds)

What is the cost of five cassettes at pounds 1.99 each? (15 seconds)

A bag of oranges costs pounds 1.49. How many bags could you buy with pounds 10? (15 seconds)

Multiply 3.06 by 1,000 (10 seconds)

Multiply 0.2 by 30 (10 seconds)

A square has a perimeter of 20 metres. What is the area of the square? (15 seconds)

The price of a boat ticket goes up from pounds 5 to pounds 5.25. What is the percentage increase? (15 seconds)

Thirteen out of 20 people had brown eyes. What percentage of people had brown eyes? (10 seconds)