Testing and Assessment
HC 169-I, Third Report of Session 2007-08 – Volume I: Report, Together with Formal Minutes
- House of Commons – Children, Schools and Families Committee
- TSO (The Stationery Office)
A certain amount of national testing at key points in a child's school career is necessary in order to provide a standardised means of measuring educational attainment. However in recent years the Government has emphasised central control of the education system through testing, associated targets, and performance tables, placing test results in a new and more complex context with wide-ranging consequences.
National test results are used for a wide variety of purposes across many different levels - national, local, institutional, and individual. Is the current national testing system a valid means by which to achieve these purposes? The Committee concludes that, in some cases, it is not. In particular, the use of national test results for the purpose of school accountability has resulted in some schools emphasising the maximisation of test results at the expense of a more rounded education for their pupils.
A variety of classroom practices aimed at improving test results have distorted the education of some children, which may leave them unprepared for higher education and employment. 'Teaching to the test' and narrowing of the taught curriculum are widespread phenomena in schools, resulting in a disproportionate focus on the 'core' subjects of English, mathematics, and science. The Government's proposals for the new single-level tests, and the new emphasis on the personalised approach to learning, may have some positive effects but there is a need for structural modification of the current approach.
The Committee concludes that the national testing system should be reformed to decouple these multiple purposes in such a way as to remove from schools the imperative to pursue test results at all costs. On the 14-19 diplomas, the Committee notes that teachers feel unprepared for the new qualifications and that there is anxiety about the limited amount of training they are due to receive.
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