Too many tests?

3 May 2009

Emphatically not! I think schools need to test and assess children more; more often, in shorter and sharper ways. At the moment, we have these clunking assessments for children at 7 years, 11 years and 16 years. These exams fail to assess children properly because they are so unwieldy, and the test papers are so rubbish. What we need are regular termly computerised tests in English and Maths for children from the age of 7. Schools have computers, there are excellent multiple choice tests that can really give some hard data on achievement, and don’t need to be marked by examiners. By building up a picture of attainment over time, instead of one-off assessments every three years, we’ll get a picture of how our children are doing.

There is a real need to assess children for communication skills when they first enter school. Much research shows that it is in the vital area of communication that are failing to assess and educate our children.

I was speaking about this on the Steve Nolan show with Sue Palmer, the author of Toxic Childhood, who was against my advocacy of testing, but agreed that we need to assess children’s communication skills properly. She felt that this didn’t mean ‘testing’ should be involved, but ‘assessing’. I don’t think she liked my tone: I argued that we are in danger of ‘loving our children to death’ in school and not putting any real demands upon them. I felt that children need to get used to a bit of pressure: we need to find ‘the golden mean’ — not too much, not too little.

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