Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Scrapping tests

Good news. Tests for fourteen year olds (Key Stage 3) have been scrapped. Whilst we're unlikely to see the end of testing completely any time soon the elimination of these high profile tests could see a lot of the artificial pressure taken off of both kids and teachers who can feel like they're on an exam production line rather than exploring the exciting process of learning.

The heavy handed centralisation that has dominated the education system is, I suspect, one of the major contributors to the demoralisation of the teaching profession. You take intelligent, community minded individuals with a keen interest in their topic and put them on a tread mill, forcing them to speak about the subjects they love in a specific, governmentally determined way and gear it all up to regurgitation in a test environment - that's got to be disheartening.

I don't see how this plays to people's strengths, bringing out their best qualities. If we want quality teachers we need to allow them to shine rather than simply treat them like robots.

However, good news that it is, it's not the principle of testing that's been rejected. The move seems to be due to the monumental cock up the private companies managed to make of marking these tests, causing much distress up and down the country back in July. This hasn't made them rethink the policy of farming everything out to the private sector, nuh-ha, they've simply abandoned Key Stage 3. Oh well, we mustn't grumble.

The teachers unions are more than happy about it. Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said "Ed Balls' announcement is an admission that the current testing system has failed. For too long, English, Mathematics and Science teachers in secondary schools have found themselves skewing everything to enable their pupils to jump through a series of unnecessary hoops."

This means children in the UK will now only be subjected to national testing at 5, 7, 11 and then 16, a schedule completely integrated into the league table system. Personally I think if they stopped spending the money on regimenting schools and teachers, opened things up for a bit of local autonomy and shared out the cash in a "do what you think best" fund we'd see happier schools and a better education system. Maybe that's just me.

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