Letter: Skills tests for teachers, not children

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Sir: I cannot understand how the General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, or anyone else, could imagine that a teacher's competence can be judged by the success of pupils in a standard examination or test, and that he cannot foresee the likely results of such a policy ("How to sack bad teachers and improve standards - by heads' union leader", 29 May).

The present Sats tests, which do not take any account of differing IQs or different home backgrounds, already lead to children becoming the victims of their parents' and teachers' desperation for them to achieve a particular result at a set age. Children of primary age are being pressured to do excessive amounts of homework, and attend maths clubs and extra coaching after school.

Those children who do not come from affluent professional homes cannot possibly achieve the same results, as they do not have access to extra teaching, PCs with educational software, or even adequate textbooks. This in turn makes them undesirable pupils, both for headteachers looking at their schools Sats results, and for class teachers, who may now face losing their jobs for teaching them.

There are still teachers leaving university unable to spell, or use punctuation, and with a very poor level of general information. Would it not be more efficient and less damaging to our children simply to require the teachers, not the children, to sit a national written examination on leaving university and at intervals thereafter, administered by an independent authority, to test their spelling, punctuation, arithmetic and knowledge of the subjects required by the National Curriculum, plus a classroom visit to make sure that they are able to keep order? This could be coupled with an increase in direct taxation to raise money to provide smaller classes, less reliance on untrained classroom helpers, more books and computers in school and public libraries, and more opportunities for in-service training for teachers who want to bring themselves up-to-date with new developments.


St Albans, Hertfordshire