Testing times: the six ages of a schoolchild

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The Independent Online
AT 4/5 YEARS OLD

NOW: Around half of primary schools already assess children on entry at four or five to check their abilities in the three Rs and identify any special educational needs.

FUTURE: From September next year, the system will be formalised, with all schools expected to assess children according to nationally-set criteria within their first term. These "baseline tests", being piloted from this September, will include numbers, reading and writing, as well as abilities such as concentration and practical skills such as washing hands and tying shoelaces. Schools will set the findings against results of tests at seven to measure their success in educating children.

AT 7 YEARS OLD

NOW: All state primary schools are required by law to test children at seven - the end of the first "key stage" of the National Curriculum. The nationally-set tests, introduced in 1991, cover English and maths. They are designed to sum up what pupils have achieved over a defined range of each subject by the end of a set period at school.

The tests are backed up by teacher assessment in English, maths and science, which takes account of other evidence of achievement. By age seven, pupils are expected to have reached level two on a scale of eight used to measure National Curriculum standards.

FUTURE: Reports on overall national results will be supplemented with annual league tables showing individual school's results.

AT 11 YEARS OLD

NOW: All state primary or middle schools are required to test children at 11. The key stage 2 tests, which are standard across the country, cover English, maths and science, and are supported by teacher assessments in all three subjects. By 11, pupils are expected to have reached level 4 on an eight-point scale used to measure National Curriculum standards.

FUTURE: The results of tests for 11-year-olds, introduced in 1995, will be published school-by-school in league-table form for the first time next month. The tables will cover tests sat last May in 16,000 primary schools in England.

AT 14 YEARS OLD

NOW: State secondary schools must test pupils at 14 at the end of key stage 3 of the National Curriculum. The tests, introduced in 1993, cover English, maths and science.

By age 14, pupils are expected to have reached level 5-6 on a scale of eight used to measure national curriculum standards, though by this age they may have moved to the top of the scale if exceptionally able. The results of tests for 14-year-olds are currently published only in terms of overall national performance.

FUTURE: Reports on overall national results will be supplemented with annual league tables showing individual school's results.

AT 16 YEARS OLD

NOW: State and independent secondary schools must publish the exam results of pupils aged 15-16 for inclusion in national league tables. The tables, introduced five years ago and published annually in November, show the percentage of eligible pupils gaining five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C (the score taken as the benchmark measure in order to rank schools); the percentage gaining five or more GCSEs at grades A*-G; and the percentage gaining one or more GCSEs at grades A*-G. Vocational qualifications, mainly intermediate level General National Vocational Qualifications, are also included, together with truancy levels.

FUTURE: No change under the Conservatives. Labour would include more information showing "value added" by schools.

17/18 YEARS OLD

NOW: State and independent secondary schools with sixth- forms must publish A-level results, together with results of AS-levels and vocational qualifications, for inclusion in national league tables. The tables show how many pupils in each school were entered for fewer than two A-levels or AS-levels and the results they achieved, and the numbers and scores of pupils taking two or more exams.

FUTURE: The present AS-level exam, which covers half the content of A-levels but to the same level of difficulty, is to be replaced by a new exam equating to the first half of an A-level course. It will be sat mainly by pupils aged 16 to 17, at the end of their first sixth- form year.

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