Schools adviser quits over 'unfair' tests at 14

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The Independent Online
JOHN MARENBON, a prominent right-wing academic, yesterday became the second of the Government's education advisers to resign in two days, protesting that its forthcoming review of the national curriculum and testing was 'unsatisfactory', writes Diana Hinds.

Dr Marenbon's resignation from the Schools Examination and Assessment Council, where he was chairman of the English committee, follows that of Lord Skidelsky, the Conservative peer and Professor of Political Economy at Warwick University. Lord Skidelsky said he was leaving because he feared the forthcoming review, chaired by Sir Ron Dearing, would not be independent of ministers or their civil servants.

Dr Marenbon said the review, the first phase of which will be completed by the end of July, would not allow for the 'thorough reconsideration of basic principles which is needed if national testing is to survive'.

In a letter to John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, Dr Marenbon said the immediate reason for his resignation was his unhappiness with the English tests for 14-year-olds, including Shakespeare and a set of anthology extracts. He said the tests were 'inadequate and unfair', and would not properly assess pupils' understanding or ability. He had repeatedly recommended that they be cancelled and rewritten, but his advice had been ignored.

He told Mr Patten: 'I am forced to conclude that many of those who advise you are too keen to tell you what they believe you want to hear, and that those advisers who would be candid can express their loyalty to you only by resigning their positions - as I do now.'

Sir Ron last night expressed his 'regret' at the resignation.