The pendulum swings back on school tests | BBC
Let’s hope that NZ Government can make the change before they have to go back on this. Let’s ditch any National based assessment for primary schoolers. It’s too much. Too much pressure on the children. Too much pressure on the teachers. All for what? Thankfully the UK Government are beginning to see that what they’re doing isn’t helping…
30 March 2017
If news stories could have a soundtrack, then this scrapping of tests in the early years of primary school would have the creaking sound of a pendulum slowly swinging back.
The Department for Education is proposing that national curriculum tests taken by seven-year-olds in England could be ditched.
Instead there would be an assessment of five-year-olds by a teacher – a so-called “baseline test” – which would be used as a starting point for measuring progress through primary school.
It represents a step backwards from more and more testing – a shift in attitude as much as policy.
And it raises again the thorny question of what kind of tests young children should face in primary school.
Are such tests a helpful indicator for identifying pupils’ needs? Or are they an unnecessary pressure – a case of too much, too young? And are such tests going to mean a paper mountain of extra bureaucracy for teachers, hindering rather than helping learning?
‘Hope over experience’
The teachers’ unions have broadly given their support to the government’s announcement to row back on the tests for seven year olds in reading, writing, maths and science.
But the National Union of Teachers still says the idea of a baseline test for four or five-year-olds remains a “triumph of hope over experience”.
The teachers’ union questions whether this can ever be a sufficiently reliable test to be used as a fixed point against which to measure all the following years of a child’s progress.
But the counter-argument to this is that you have to start somewhere.
If schools are to be held to account for how much progress children have made by the age of 11 – then it has to be measured against a starting point.
And isn’t the natural starting point in the first year?
There is also a strong argument that it is the low achievers and the disadvantaged who will be most in need of the extra help that a test might identify.
And at the last general election, all three main political parties were sympathetic to the principle of baseline testing.
But the announcement on testing also raises another great back and forth of the education pendulum. How much data is too much?
Parents’ evenings, with spreadsheets and targets, can feel like a chat with the accountants.
And for the schools themselves, the accumulation and analysis of data has become a major part of their working lives.