New test for seven-year-olds

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The Independent Online
SCIENCE, algebra and reading aloud for bright children have all been dropped in new, simplified tests for seven-year-olds released yesterday.

The tests, which have been scaled down after teachers' protests over workload led to a boycott earlier this year, concentrate on the basics and will take about two hours per pupil instead of four. They have been changed in response to recommendations from Sir Ron Dearing, head of the Government's curriculum review.

For most seven-year-olds there will be a 15-minute reading test, a 25-minute mathematics test on numbers but not algebra, a 10- minute spelling test and a writing test. Bright pupils will do a 40- minute written comprehension to test their reading. The requirement that they should also do the same reading aloud test as average pupils has been abandoned.

Schools may set the tests between the middle of the spring and four weeks before the end of the summer term. Ministers hope the changes will persuade teachers to lift their test boycott but unions responded cautiously.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, whose members have voted by 20 to 1 to continue the boycott, said: 'Our members are used to inaccurate estimates of the time needed to carry out the tests being made by government bodies. Shortening the tests does not automatically improve their educational soundness.' The National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers said the changes were a step in the right direction, but it would wait until the review was complete before deciding about its boycott.

Sample science tests for seven- year-olds are being sent to schools but this year they are not compulsory because Sir Ron wants schools to emphasise literacy and numeracy. There is an optional mathematics test for all but the slowest children.

Children will continue to be placed on Levels 1 to 4 with Level 4 (the standard of an average 11- year-old) the highest. About 60 per cent of seven-year-olds will be at Level 2. Those reaching Level 2 in reading are graded A to E and those at Level 3 from A to C.

Young children get a good start in learning to read, according to a report from Her Majesty's Inspectors published yesterday.

The report into 30 primary schools found that 90 per cent of reception and 82 per cent of first- year classes achieved satisfactory or better standards.

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