Letter: School tests under the microscope

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The Independent Online
Sir: I welcome the comments made by Lord Skidelsky in describing the national curriculum testing arrangements as a 'Byzantine monster'. In so doing he totally endorses the concerns that gave rise to the NASUWT ballot.

I also very much welcome that part of your leading article (18 March) that argues for a vastly slimmed down operation of one description or another.

Teachers are torn between two conflicting demands. Workload demands a simple approach. However, professional concerns dictate that a simplistic system used for the Government's main purpose is a virtual impossibility. Pupils' abilities and achievements across a range of subjects are too diverse to allow a simple testing system to have any credibility.

Despite these problems there may be ways forward along the lines you suggest. An essential ingredient for success has to be a vast slimming down.

One thing is certain. The Government will not be able to solve this problem unless it engages in meaningful, deep and continuous dialogue with representatives of classroom teachers who bring a wide spectrum of experience and opinion to bear upon these problems.

Consulting with a handful of carefully selected, if ever-changing personnel, or with education experts who do not have to carry out the work themselves, has clearly proved to be a monumental disaster.

Perhaps the message that is now delivered by a Conservative peer might be more palatable even though the content is the same as the union messenger conveyed.

Yours faithfully,


General Secretary


London, WC2

18 March