Leading article: A welcome rethink on testing

Share

The Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, deserves some credit for yesterday's blueprint for reforming national curriculum testing. It is the first serious attempt to get to grips with the problems that the current testing and league table regime has produced. The main one is that creativity is being stifled as too many teachers spend too much time "teaching to the test".

Under the new plan, teachers would enter their pupils for tests when they believed they were ready to pass them instead of having them all tested at the end of each "key stage" (at 11 and 14). This will mean more tests for the brightest pupils, as they will be tested each time their teachers think they have improved sufficiently to take the next test in maths or English (there are eight different levels in each subject in the national curriculum).

On the plus side, though, the tests will be shorter, more focused, and less will be at stake than at the current end-of-year national curriculum tests. The new system will also encourage teachers to stretch the brightest pupils to reach a higher level, rather than just breathing a sigh of relief that as many of them as possible have attained the standard expected for their age.

Mr Johnson was at pains yesterday to insist that the existing national curriculum tests at 11 and 14 would remain in force while the new scheme is piloted in selected schools. Superficially, this looks sensible. In practice, the new system will only work properly if the other tests are scrapped. After all, it makes no sense to encourage the brightest pupils to obtain a level six qualification in English at the age of 13 (one level above the standard expected of a 14-year-old), if they then have to take another test the following year to determine whether they have achieved the standard level five. The other strand of the changes proposed yesterday will give extra help to those pupils who are struggling. This should be welcomed unreservedly. The idea is to offer 10 hours of one-to-one tuition in maths and English to those who are falling behind. There will be financial rewards for schools that make the most progress with children who have difficulties in mastering the three Rs.

The best aspect of Mr Johnson's approach, however, is that he seems concerned to work with teachers and schools, rather than imposing directives from on high. There will be a major consultation exercise before the new scheme is introduced and it will be piloted before it is introduced nationwide.

Until now, the Government has insisted that the current testing regime is here to stay and that anyone who opposes it was selling our children short. The new tone is as positive a development as the substance.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Patrick Cockburn: Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on