Tests at 14 were 'too stressful'

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THE PILOT tests for 14-year-olds in maths and science this summer were too stressful for the children, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women teachers said yesterday, writes Ngaio Crequer.

The union, the second largest teacher union, polled nearly 900 schools in 107 local education authorities. More than 50 per cent of teachers believed the tests in science were too difficult, with low achievers faced by questions they could not answer. 'This was bound to undermine the good work that teachers were doing in the classroom to build up the confidence of pupils of below average ability,' the union summary said.

Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, said: 'The consensus among teachers is that three one-hour exams in one day in maths and science imposes too much stress on 14-year-olds. This will get worse next year with more subjects to be added. I have no doubt that children will crack under this strain and in some extreme cases we could be facing a number of tragedies.'

According to the survey, one in five teachers took the equivalent of up to six working days to mark and record the maths tests, and only slightly less for science. Because they were conducted at the same time as exams for GCSE and A-level, and the writing of school reports, there was little time for lesson preparation.