Scotland's national tests mean schools must avoid the pitfalls of teaching to the league table

The Government in England never had any desire to publish primary league tables

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Note the words used by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she unveiled plans for the first ever national testing programme to improve literacy and numeracy in Scottish schools.

“I have no desire to see crude league tables that distort rather than enhance our understanding of children’s attainment and school performance,” she told MSPs yesterday.

Not very different to the noises made south of the border when national testing of 7, 11 and 14-year-olds along with the introduction of the national curriculum in the late 1980’s.

The Government in England never had any desire to publish primary league tables. In fact, they were also reluctant to use the word “tests” to describe what they were introducing.  They were, in their words, merely  “assessments”.

It was only when a journalist decided to do that off his own bat that then Education Secretary David Blunkett introduced them - his thinking being, if they were to be published, it would be good if they were accurate.

My point is that - no matter what the intentions may be of the Scottish government might be - there may well be pressures along the way to publish the results in league table form.

The tests - or new nationalised standard assessments as they are described in  Scottish government circles - will concentrate on literacy and numeracy and look at health and wellbeing.  The fact that they are to be taken at roughly the same age as those introduced in England (and Wales then) tend to  give them an educational stamp of approval.  They will provide useful information to help eradicate disadvantage.

Care is needed, though, to avoid the pitfalls of teaching to the test and the ensuing controversy that ensued in England.

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